Asking questions and learning

Economics professor Robert Franks of Cornell finds that having students come up with an interesting question about something they've seen and use economic principles to answer that question helps them learn economic concepts better.

The assignment is my response to the distressing finding that six months after having completed a standard introductory economics course, students are no better able to answer questions about basic economic principles than others who have never even taken economics. In standard courses, hundreds of concepts — many of them embedded in complex equations and graphs — often seem to go by in a blur. In contrast, grappling with questions that students care about appears to be a far more effective learning strategy. And that’s in no small part because the problems they pinpoint are so intriguing.