Significant Learning and Civic Education: Shifting Frameworks for Teaching in Light of Learning about the Financial Crisis


  • KimMarie McGoldrick
  • Janice Peterson



The recent financial crisis has motivated economic educators to rethink what economics should be taught, acknowledging disconnects between classroom content and real world events. We introduce a learning theory approach that is broader, one that goes beyond such context specific discussions of foundational knowledge and application (i.e., teaching about this specific crisis) and provide a framework to address the broader issue of how teaching practices can, by their very nature, minimize such disconnects and provide more effective processes for teaching about current economic conditions. The theory of significant learning (Fink 2003) is presented as a model of how experiences can be used to develop a deep approach to learning, learning that lasts. Experiential learning pedagogies are timeless in that they can be readily modified to promote deeper understanding over a wide range of economic environments. Focusing on one category of significant learning, the human dimension, and one component of the financial crisis, unemployment, examples which modify existing experiential learning practices are described to demonstrate how such pedagogic practices can be readily adapted to teaching and learning about current economic conditions. In short, we demonstrate that incorporating student experiences into pedagogic practice provides a natural alignment of teaching content and real world events, regardless of how those change over time.