CORE in high school?

By Tim Phillips, CORE | 16 March 2017

We know from our email inbox that a small but active group of CORE’s teachers are using it in schools, so we asked some of them how it fits alongside the school curriculum, how useful it has been – and the challenges they overcame.

Andrew Sykes, St Paul’s School, UK

Andrew, who is also a CORE contributor, uses our course to support “extension” activities for A-level teaching (years 12 and 13, the final two years of the English school system).

“Unit 17, on The Great Depression, the Golden Age and the global financial crisis (GFC), provides a particularly good resource to support A-level studies,” he says, “It complements our exam board’s requirements to study the policy responses to the GFC and the Great Depression.” Students in year 12, who study this, have learned the key economic concepts, how to analyse the use of monetary and fiscal policy, and Andrew uses the chapter to introduce the role of financial regulation. “Students are then asked to use the chapter and the ‘Read More’ material as the basis for a research assignment contrasting the use of monetary, fiscal, and regulatory policy in the responses to the Great Depression and GFC,” he explains.

Andrew also uses the material on game theory to deepen the textbook treatments of what economic games can tell us. “Students become very used to studying firms and consumers with the assumption of optimising homo economicus, and they come away from introductory game theory with this notion reinforced. We have been able to use Unit 4 (Social interactions) to get them to think more broadly than self-regarding optimising agents. This fits well with the syllabus requirements to study ‘alternative views of consumer behaviour’.”

He does warn, however, that parts of the e-book might be a bit advanced for a high school class, “but most students at our school have found it to be a very welcome and stimulating addition to their course.”

Steve Russell, Runshaw College, UK

Steve uses the material to help his 100 students prepare for their exams. “One of the biggest challenges I face is trying to provide students with both a historical and international perspective to their economics studies in a very short time, while simultaneously preparing them for a very prescriptive exam,” he says, “The CORE materials have been of tremendous help. I scan the course for content that I think might challenge student preconceptions on a subject. Topics such as inequality, limitations of marginal revenue productivity theory and infographics on how banking works have been very useful.”

Steve uses our reading lists to counterbalance the resources students find for themselves on the internet. “These sources often present topics with stories or convincing but overly simplistic analogies,” he says. He encourages them to question where these presentations and the data they use in the course come from, and uses some of our thought experiments to start class discussions.

Leith Thompson, Burwood Girls High School, Australia

Leith uses CORE to help prepare 100 students for the Australian Preliminary Higher School Certificate and Higher School Certificate. She is also using CORE as part of research into how to attract more students, specifically more female students, to study economics in the state of New South Wales. When complete her research will be presented to all teachers of Economics in the state. For example, one of her research topics is to explore whether traditional “chalk and talk” teaching is more suitable for male than female students, and that more collaborative teaching methods have a place in the classroom.

When teaching, she uses CORE’s text to explain concepts, and its activities, videos and classroom games to bring them to life. “I particularly like the interactive diagrams and the teacher MCQs with answers,” she says, “but I am aware that a lot of the content is not necessary at high school level. I only use those concepts that overlap with our syllabus.”

Previously, she alone logged in, and presented the material to the class. “I have been reluctant to have all students log on to the tests themselves, but this year they will create their own login and access the information relevant to the topics we are studying. I intend to have them read and overview the information prior to class to acquire background knowledge, and I will also create worksheets to accompany the reading.”

She highlights the “global, real world” nature of what they are learning in CORE: “One of the recurrent themes is improving the understanding of the ‘bigger picture’ in economics, helping young women understand that economics is the language of power, public policy and change, and showing them how it relates to the real world. This has often been lacking in high school economics resources and teaching in our country.”

Stuart Foster, North London Collegiate School, UK

“The structure of the course is not well suited to our syllabus,” Stuart says, “and this is one of the good things about CORE: it’s different!” He teaches International Baccalaureate and A-level economics at North London Collegiate School, with between 85 and 90 girls taking the subject.

Students who are preparing for entry to Oxford and Cambridge find it particularly useful, he says, because they find it challenging but appropriate and engaging.

But, he warns, CORE’s structure and organisation does not mirror the structure of the school syllabus. “In an ideal world,” he says, “there would be some way of linking key parts of the text to the units that are frequently covered in high school economics… I think that there are many A-level and IB teachers who would like to get on board with the approach adopted by CORE.”

Catherine Mole, Lancing College, UK

Catherine uses CORE as a medium to source data for her A-level course, but “it has been most useful in helping me to set up my ECO101 enrichment course where we do not follow the traditional theories, and look at the wider implications of the world economic changes.”

The students from her class of 90 who follow this find out more about the topics such as the global financial crisis, the environment and inequality that we cover in Units 16 to 19. Meanwhile, students doing the AS exam (taken in the penultimate school year) use elements of Units 2 to 11.

“CORE has the basis to be a fantastic independent qualification that would allow students to learn about what really affects them and understand better the economy that they are going to work in,” she adds.

Have you used CORE for school teaching, or would you like advice on how to do it? If so, get in touch and we will help.