Using a Structured Minimum Wage Debate in the Economics Classroom

This lesson describes a method for using the minimum wage as a classroom debate topic. The activity, as described, takes segments of three class periods.

On the first day, students are given instructions and divided into groups; they spend the remaining time preparing for the debate by studying articles and policy statements written by journalists, think-tank policy wonks, and economists on both sides of the issue. They use this information to produce notecards containing key facts and arguments they will use in the debate.

The second day is the structured classroom debate. This lesson includes clear instructions to ensure that students remain engaged and that the debate remains orderly and academic in nature. After the debate, a panel of three undecided students casts anonymous votes to deter-mine which group wins the debate. To assess learning and encourage reflection, students are given an essay assignment at the end of the second class period.

On the third day (approximately 10 minutes), the instructor will collect each reflection essay assignment, summarize the economic arguments, and debrief the debate.

This activity helps students develop competencies in researching current issues, preparing logical arguments, thinking critically about a relevant economic issue, and formulating opinions based on evidence.


This lesson received the 2020 Curriculum Gold Award of Excellence from the National Association of Economic Educators.
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