The good news is that many states passed legislation in 2023 to join the lineup of those requiring students to complete a one-semester Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) course to graduate from high school. Thousands of additional teenagers will now get real-world knowledge they will need to become savvy consumers, investors, and citizens. But will their PFL courses be of similar quality? Unfortunately, there will likely be a range of instruction and content quality across the twenty-three states and hundreds of school districts that currently or will soon require teens to take PFL classes.
Fortunately, the University of New Orleans (UNO) has received a $2 million grant to study the impact of these PFL classes and design an optimal curriculum based on their findings. Through the Dollars to Dreams program, partnered with UNO, researchers hope to find ways to increase student engagement on the topics of personal finance. The program is based on entrepreneurialism and projects rather than rote classroom learning. Around the country, PFL teachers will be eager to learn which projects are most effective at engaging juniors and seniors in high school when it comes to learning about money.
Teaching New Subjects Can Be a Daunting Task
Although everyone should be excited about the expansion of financial literacy education, teachers who are “voluntold” to teach the new classes may struggle with getting started. This is especially true given that most teachers may not have ever sat through a similar class! While most English, math, science, and social studies teachers took those same courses in high school and college, the same cannot be said for Personal Financial Literacy. As a result, it’s important to have high-quality content ready for new teachers.
UNO’s research into best practices will help narrow down a wide array of good content and lessons into those that are most effective. Many teachers may not struggle with finding content, but rather finding the right content for their classroom. When there is a broad range of material, what works best with 16-to-18-year-old teenagers in different settings?
There’s a Lot of Content Material, But What Works Best?
Already, there has been some drama when it comes to officially-recognized PFL content in some states. With new states rapidly joining the lineup to require a PFL class, education vendors may promote content and curriculum that does not match well with what students need. Therefore, research like that being conducted by UNO will be beneficial by helping highlight the most effective programs and resources. A problem likely experienced by new PFL teachers will be too much content rather than too little.
Education content in today’s digitally-savvy classrooms needs to network and integrate well with other resources. And sadly, it may take some trial and error to find out what works and what struggles. Research into best practices should help new PFL teachers exclude previously tried methods that resulted in student struggle or disengagement and focus on tried-and-true content and lessons that generated strong learning and retention. This process will not occur overnight, so it is important for researchers, both in academia and the private sector, to stick with it. The better we do at identifying best practices in financial literacy education, the better off tomorrow’s adults will be!