Teaching Economics with Cartoons


Micheal M. van Wyk assures us that cartoons are highly effective visual tools to enhance student learning. Humour can lighten any classroom atmosphere, helping the students to see it as a safe and positive learning environment. Benefits of using cartoons to explain abstract topics range from a deeper understanding and increased attention and interest to more creativity and divergent thinking.


In 2008, undergraduate students enrolled in ECT 122 and 142 (Economics subject didactics) at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, were taught with cartoons as an arts-based teaching tool. During these semester-long courses, the students were able to discuss and critically discuss and reflect on cartoons sourced from the daily or weekly newspapers or economics magazines. The professor used the cartoons to explain key topics. Sometimes students found their own cartoons related to the content to share with the group, or they drew their own examples to illustrate a point or for assignments. Games were sometimes played where the students needed to act out a cartoon and expand on the ideas within them.

From student interviews, it was clear that the cartoons positively affected the students’ learning. Students were positive and motivated; they appreciated the professor’s effort in finding recent cartoons to help them understand the course content, and they enjoyed the games and discussions that evolved from studying them, especially if there were incentives such as sweets or extra marks. Overall, van Wyk’s study proves that the students felt a greater motivation to learn and had increased retention of the course content with this creative pedagogical tool.


To read more and see image source: Micheal M Van Wyk. “The Use of Cartoons as a Teaching Tool to Enhance Student Learning in Economics Education.” Journal of Social Sciences Vol. 26, no. 2 (2011) :117-130. DOI:10.1080/09718923.2011.11892888 http://www.krepublishers.com/02-Journals/JSS/JSS-26-0-000-11-Web/JSS-26-2-000-11-Abst-PDF/JSS-26-2-117-11-1102-Van-Wyk-M-M/JSS-26-2-117-11-1102-Van-Wyk-M-M-Tt.pdf