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Paul W. Grimes
The ‘theses’ published in this chapter were written for the first time 15 years ago, then rewritten more than a decade ago as an intervention in a round table: some updating has been done for the present publication. They have had a long gestation: in fact, the maturation of the theses covers the author’s entire life in the university, first as a student and then as a teacher.
Mainstream economics frequently reproduces itself by excluding alternative perspectives from undergraduate curricula. Challenges also arise from the unwillingness of lecturers to experiment in their teaching as a result of institutional pressures related to students’ satisfaction and, in general, to issues around the commodification of higher education. This chapter outlines an innovative approach to introducing alternative economic perspectives into economics curricula through a reflective redesign of a History of Economic Thought module taught at the School of Economics and Finance of Queen Mary University of London. An account of this learning and teaching experience is accompanied by the findings of a small research project focused on the students’ experience of their exposure to pluralistic economics.
In most universities in the UK, history of economic thought, when it is taught, is taught either as a specialist or an optional module in the second and third year of the degree. This contribution argues in favour of introducing elements from the history of economic thought into the first-year introductory economics module. The author looks at five reasons why this is an important change in developing curricula that teach economics through its history and evolution.
The author presents ideas on using history of thought to illuminate economic theory in the teaching of introductory economics. In this, he draws on his experience as a life-long observer of economics teaching and from 35 years teaching Introduction to Microeconomics, first at Tufts University and then at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He suggests how the study of history of thought can enhance learning both for those who follow the dominant orthodoxy and those who criticize it. Furthermore, as pedagogy, teaching history of thought can help students learn, by maintaining their interest and by giving them a deeper and richer understanding of economic theory.
Teaching the history of economic thought is fast becoming an important topic of debate and discussion within economics teaching. But the use of historical perspectives in teaching is also an issue of much wider relevance across higher education. The motivations and challenges of implementing this kind of approach are specific to each discipline; however, there are things that we can learn from a range of subjects that can help inform teaching the history of economic thought. This chapter explores the debates around teaching with historical perspectives in a range of subjects, before focusing on some of the practical approaches used by teachers, and exploring the impact of this pedagogical approach on students.