Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Teacher Education and Leadership

Department name when degree awarded

Elementary Education

Committee Chair(s)

James P. Shaver


James P. Shaver



Despite the surge of interest in economic education in the elementary school in the last two decades, there have been very few attempts to assess the ability of young children to learn economic concepts. In the primary grades, this problem is compounded by the difficulty of measuring knowledge in six and seven year old children.


The primary objective of this dissertation was to determine whether first-grade children can learn the basic concepts in Our Working World: Families at Work. Since instruments suitable for assessing achievement on Families at Work were not available when this study was initiated, a secondary objective was to develop adequate achievement tests.


Four Primary Economics Tests for Grade One (PET-1 ) were developed: The YES-NO, Matched-Pairs, All-NO, and Picture tests. These four tests were compared for reliability and validity. Reliability of the Matched-Pairs, All-NO, and Picture tests was adequate for the major purposes of this study, such as comparing group means. However, the Picture test lacked content validity in the sense that it was not comprehensive--it sampled only a few of the major concepts in Families at Work. And the All-NO test confounded acquiescence-set with knowledge of the content of Families at Work. It was concluded that the Matched-Pairs test had adequate reliability and validity for studies such as this one.

To determine if elementary students could learn the concepts in Families at Work, control and experimental groups of children were selected from one urban, one rural, and two suburban areas of northern Utah. An experimental group of children was also tested in Elkhart, Indiana--where Our Working World: Families at Work was developed under the direction of Lawrence Senesh. Children were given the PET-1 tests and a test of mental ability. In comparing PET-1 means, analysis of covariance was used to adjust for differences in mental ability between control and experimental groups. Chi-square was used in item analyses to determine whether the first-grade children learned individual concepts in Families at Work.


The investigations of pupil learning led to five conclusions:

1. There were general indications that first-grade children can learn the content of Families at Work. In each of four studies--two which were central to this dissertation--PET-1 means for the experimental groups were significantly larger than the .01 level than for the control groups.

2. There were no major concepts in Families at Work which first-grade children did not learn. Each concept was learned by some students at at least a simple level of abstractness and complexity.

3. Families at Work was not too easy for bright first-grade children. Even very intelligent children failed to demonstrate complete mastery of the major concepts in Families at Work. No student obtained a perfect or near-perfect PET-1 score.

4. Families at Work was not too difficult for slow students. Slow students demonstrated that they learned some of the content of Families at Work. Those students in the experimental groups who were at least six months below grade-level obtained significantly (.01 level) higher PET-1 scores than did similar students in the control groups.

5. Special training or experience does not seem to be necessary in order for teachers to adequately instruct fist-grade children in the content of Families at Work. PET-1 means for students in Elkhart, Indiana did not differ at the .05 level of significance from PET-2 means for the other experimental groups.