From IB teacher, workshop leader and now curriculum manager, Martin Muchena has led the creation of the new DP economics course, which will begin first teaching this fall. Concepts, context and content are the three pillars of this dynamic new course as students explore economics in a holistic new way. Before my chat with Martin, I thought economics was some kind of math or finance course. I could not have been more wrong.
In this episode of IB Voices, Martin dives into the central elements of the course, the approaches to teaching and learning, and how the study of economics is actually the study of our world.
So, here’s the obvious question: What is DP economics?
DP economics is an exciting, dynamic subject that explores the various complexities and interdependencies that exist in our rapidly change world. And, of course, at the heart of every economics aspect is the problem of scarcity. We have so many unlimited needs and wants, especially with the growing population, but we have finite resources. So, the big economics question is how do we distribute those finite resources amongst the many competing unlimited wants and needs? We have to make choices. Economics is driven by the way we, as individuals and societies, make those particular choices. That is why, in DP Economics, we have scarcity and choice as one of nine key concepts that drive the course. And each are explored through inquiries, because that way students are able to explore the course through their own investigations, through curiosity, and by asking questions.
And for teachers, through this inquiry-based approach, teachers can drive their lessons in a more engaging way. DP economics has, what we call, the Concepts, the Contexts and the Content. So, what we’re saying to teachers it that they can start their lessons at any point. For example, you could start with a conceptual idea, or big questions, of scarcity, choice, or equity. Or, you could start with the content—maybe teach the students a little bit of the content, then go into the context. Through context, you apply the content to real world situations.
How is the DP economics course different from other economics classes that might be taught around the world?
DP economics is different because it’s not just focused on the Content. We have the Concepts and the Context, too. In my experience, students do best when they are able to relate the Content to real world Contexts. That’s one of the driving forces of this course. How is what you are learning relating to the real world? Relevance is of key importance.
Another unique and important aspect of the course is the internal assessment. It provides an opportunity for students to apply economic theories, models and tools to the world around them through a conceptual lens.
It seems to me like economics is one of those subjects that really embodies the mission of the IB, in that it brings the world together through a global understanding, to make the world a better place. Is that on purpose or is that just the nature of economics?
That’s a good question. I would say that the new course has more explicit link to the IB mission and philosophy. That’s why there is such a huge focus on inquiry, and if you look at some of the key elements of the IB, like the learner profile, we’ve drawn strong links to how teachers can use the ten attributes of the learner profile in the economics classroom. It also has strong links to the DP core, so we can basically look at economics through the lens of theory of knowledge (TOK), through the lens of creativity, activity, service (CAS) and the extended essay (EE).
Listen to the full interview on the IB Voices podcast
“Students who have an interest in both science and the arts actually thrive in economics because it brings both of them together.”
As somebody who doesn’t know a lot about economics, is it a math class?
That’s a good question, too. It’s a social science. economics is a social science, with social meaning that it deals with people, you know, and the challenges that people face in our particular economy. But, it’s also a science, because it has a quantitative element to it. There’s a little bit of mathematics, but not too much, because in order to make any good economic decision, you need both qualitative and quantitative skills. And that is why in this new course, we help students to become better thinkers of economics, to become policy makers; an element that is explicitly explored through one of the papers. In essence, yes, there is a mathematical element, but there are also theoretical elements, which are emphasized and integrated.
What types of jobs or majors might a student be interested in to really thrive in the new DP economics class?
Students who have an interest in both science and the arts actually thrive in economics because it brings both of them together. That’s why students who do economics can become politicians, or work with international development organizations. They can go out and explore a more quantitative approach and work with financial institutions and become financial advisors. They can go out and do law because there’s also a strong element of that. Economics is a subject that is highly interdisciplinary and fits many career areas.
Is there an aspect of the updated course that you are especially fond of?
In developing the new course, we had many stakeholders involved – teachers from all different regions, industry experts, university professors. So, what I like the most is that so many economic thinkers were involved in creating it, to make sure it is fit for purpose for many years to come. As a result, we have a highly relevant and uniquely flexible course.
And for our educators reading, how can current or new DP economics teachers learn more about the curriculum?
Beginning in February 2020, we will start having Subject Specific Seminars, which we encourage teachers to register and take. These provide very good opportunities to met face-to-face with workshop leaders and to meet me, as the curriculum manager, because I will be there to provide support. The subject guide will also become available on the Programme Resource Center.
Thanks Martin for your time! As he mentioned, the new DP economics curriculum guides are available. And sign up now for the Subject Specifics Seminars on ibo.org.
This interview was conducted by Zachary Fernebok, Product Marketing Manager for the Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme at the International Baccalaureate, and one of the hosts of IB Voices. Listen to more stories from students, schools, educators and more on the IB Voices podcast.