Doctoral student writing

The Impact of Incorporating Experiments into Teaching of Economics on Student Engagement

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Starting: 2018
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


A number of studies have shown that there are benefits in terms of incorporating experiment sessions into the teaching of economics (Brauer and Delemeester, 2001). The aims are to increase students’ understanding of the economic theory being taught and allow them to better connect it to real life decisions (King, 1999; Haitani and Oda, 2008). However, Guest (2016) indicates there are a number of factors that need to be considered in designing classroom experiments such as the technology used (Bartlett and King, 1990), the incentives offered (Oxoby, 2001), and the topic being covered (Durham et al., 2007). Overall it is important that experiments encourage learning and are aligned with the targeted learning outcomes rather than distorting behaviour (Cheung, 2006).

The research would have to consider how experiments affect non-specialist students and students of differing abilities (Emerson and Taylor, 2004). It would also be important to take account of the extent that experiments are used in a course as there is evidence that the use of experiments is cumulative (Dixie, 2006). The study would contribute to knowledge by examining a less studied element in terms of the effect on engagement through encouraging students to design their own experiments.

This research would require the researcher to develop and adapt their own experiments for use in classes, particularly those relating to behavioural economics. It would be expected that the researcher will deliver the classes and collect data relating to how the students performed in the class, and the outcomes achieved, not just in terms of how the experiment was played, but in terms of the students’ knowledge development in both the short and longer term. Relating to this longer term gains, the engagement of the students with the subject of economics as a whole would be important to get a more holistic view of the experiment(s) impact (Guest, 2016). To gather this data researchers will need to apply survey design and qualitative data collection methods to capture a deeper understanding of the impacts of experiments to be used in combination with more quantitative analysis.


Bartlett, R. L. and King, P. G. (1990) ‘Teaching economics as a laboratory science’, Journal of Economic Education, 21 (2), 181-193.
Brauer, J. and Delemeester, G. (2001) ‘Games economists play: a survey of non-computerised classroom-games for college economics’, Journal of Economic Surveys, 15 (2), 221-236.
Cheung, S. L. (2006) ‘On the use of classroom experiments in ‘aligned teaching’’, Economic Analysis and Policy, 33 (1), 61-72.
Dickie, M. (2006) ‘Do classroom experiments increase learning in introductory microeconomics?’, Journal of Economic Education, 37 (3), 267-288.
Durham, Y. McKinnon, T. and Schulman, C. (2007) ‘Classroom experiments: not just fun and games’, Economic Inquiry, 45 (1), 162-178.
Eisenkopf, G. and Sulser, P. A. (2016) ‘Randomized controlled trial of teaching methods: do classroom experiments improve economic education in high schools?’, Journal of Economic Education, 47 (3), 211-225.
Emerson, T. L. N and Taylor, B. A. (2004) ‘Comparing student achievement across experimental and lecture-orientated sections of a principles of microeconomics course’, Southern Economic Journal, 70 (3), 672-693.
Emerson, T. L. N. and English, L. (2016) ‘Classroom experiments: is more more?’, American Economic Review, 106 (5), 363-367.
Grol, R. Sent, E.-M., and de Vries, B. (2016) ‘Participate or observe? Effects of economic classroom experiments on students’ economic literacy’, European Journal of Psychological Education, DOI: 10.1007/s10212-016-0287-8.
Guest, J. (2016) ‘Reflections on ten years of using economics games and experiments in teaching’, Cogent, Economics and Finance, 3: 1115619. DOI: 10.1080/23322039.2015.1115619.
Haitani, R. and Oda, S. H. (2008) ‘What students learn from market experiments and what they don’t’, Kyoto Sangyo University Working Paper.
King, H. (1999) ‘A neophyte’s cost-benefit analysis of classroom experiments and simulations in introductory economics’, University of Regina Discussion Paper #79.
Oxoby, R. J. (2001) ‘A monopoly classroom experiment’, Journal of Economic Education, 32 (2), 160-168.
Rousu, M. C. Corrigan, J. R. Harris, D. Hayter, J. K. Houser, S. Lafrancois, B. A., Onafowora, O. Colson, G. and Hoffer, A. (2015) ‘Do monetary incentives matter in classroom experiments? Effects on course performance’, Journal of Economic Education, 46 (4), 341-349.


Dr Piers Thompson

Entry qualifications

An applicant for admission to read for a PhD should normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second class honours degree with a Master's degree at Merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0). Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements. A research proposal (between 1,000 and a maximum of 2,000 words) must be submitted as part of the application.

For more information please visit the NTU Doctoral School – Research Degrees webpages.

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Applications are accepted all year round.

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This is a self-funded PhD opportunity.

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Piers Thompson