ECON 330 History of Economic Doctines Course Guide

Course Description

This course entails a critical examination of the major schools of economic thought from the seventeenth through the early twentieth-first century. Particular attention is paid to pre-capitalist 17th century mercantilist economies, classical 18th century exegesis of Adam Smith on the nature of the emerging economic system of capitalism, neo-classical 19th century alterations of Adam Smith’s ideas as well as the critical views of Karl Marx. The centerpiece of the 20th century economic thinking are those of John Maynard Keynes’s and his emphasis on macroeconomic policy. Contemporary mainstream and alternative views will also be examined.

Assessable Learning Objectives

The core learning objectives for the course are listed below. Beyond this, individual instructors will introduce their own background in emphasizing specific areas of their choosing.

  1. Students will demonstrate an understanding of issues in economic thought so that they can apply them to real world situations.
  2. Students will study the historical background for both the economic theory and policy in order to demonstrate an appreciation of the complexity of current problems and the controversial nature of alternative solutions to economic problems.
  3. Students will gain an appreciation of the continuity economic doctrines and their relationship to their historical context.

Course Outline

The outline below includes covers the core objectives for the course. It is arranged for the most part in the typical order in which course content appears in textbooks. The order can be changed as appropriate to meet the instructor’s objectives, including coverage of additional content.

  • European pre-capitalist economies and the seeds of capitalism
  • Mercantilist writers and the philosophy of individualism
  • The ideas of Adam Smith and his historical context in the late 18th century
  • The ideas of Thomas Malthus and his historical context in the early 19th century
  • The political economy of David Ricardo in the early 19th century
  • The contributions to economic theory of the utilitarians in the mid-19th century
  • The mid 19th century critique of capitalism by Karl Marx and others.
  • Late 19th century ideas of the neoclassical thinker John Stuart Mill and Alfred Marshall among others
  • The critique of neoclassical thought by Thorstein Veblen and his American economic context
  • The Great Depression of the 1930s and the economics of John Maynard Keynes
  • Late 20th century mainstream thought and alternative views in a contemporary context

Recommended Teaching Methodology

A primary objective in teaching this class is to engage students in active learning and critical thinking about economic evolution of economic ideas in their historical context.

The primary method of teaching will likely stress interactive lecture and class discussion. Presentations, which might include the use of some video related to the person studied or to the historical context, should clarify and amplify text material. Class discussion of broad questions spanning various time periods and the accumulated knowledge of economic thinkers would provide students with the opportunity to engage in discussion regarding course topics. Instructors should seek to intersperse class discussion with mini-lectures that clarify the material.

Secondary methods include the discussion of relevant articles and student reports that provide examples and insight into the workings of the micro economy. Articles may be assigned for oral and/or written presentation and discussion. Group work may also be used to reinforce economic concepts and problem solving skills.

Periodic discussion and review of the portfolio of teaching methods employed by instructors in this course is to be made. Such discussions should also include review of the level of rigor expected in each course section.

Recommended Assessment Measures

Regular assessment serves to provide feedback is several ways. First, assessment provides feedback to students on their achievement and on areas of weakness. Second, assessment provides one kind of incentive for students to actively engage and study course material. Third, assessment is a necessary component in the process by which student evaluation is quantified for purposes of course grades. Finally, assessment provides feedback to the faculty on how well or poorly students’ performance lines up with course objectives. Design of assessment measures for the course should satisfy each of these objectives.

  1. The primary method for assessing the attainment of knowledge is expected to be periodic and final exams. Exams must be designed to assess the student’s level of understanding and ability to discuss material, from the text and class discussions, that is directly related to the learning objectives. A set of common exam questions will be developed to allow systematic assessment of learning objectives. Student outcomes on the set of common questions will be used as one component of an ongoing review of student achievement of course learning objectives
  2. Short written assignments (reports and problem sets) may be utilized to achieve and assess the attainment of learning objectives. Criteria for evaluating written assignments should be clearly identified and explained by the professor.
  3. Quizzes may be utilized to ascertain the level of preparation on a regular basis.

Statement of Expectations

Students should expect that the average weekly workload in this course would be three hours in class plus a minimum of six hours of studying and assignment preparation. The students are expected to read and process about 30 pages of reading per class. They should be able to discuss the core ideas contained in the readings. Some of the ideas are relatively easy while others are less than institutively clear. Economics is a relatively esoteric subject with a very specialized vocabulary. While most of the connections to ideas and historical context will take place in the classroom, the true understanding of the arguments of various thinkers must be understood through careful study. The amount that students learn and the level of skill that is developed will be directly related to the amount of effort that is expended. Classes are opportunities to discuss and apply the material, and to develop communication and leadership skills. They are also opportunities for professors to provide insight, to help students attain understanding, and for the evaluation of performance.

Prerequisite Knowledge and Skills

The most important prerequisites are an interest in the subject that is indicated by having taken an introductory course in economics. The primary requisite is the student’s willingness to commit the necessary resources in terms of time and intellectual effort, and a desire to actively participate in the learning process. This course will require a challenging mix of analytic, quantitative, and communication skills. Students should be prepared to deal extensively with economic arguments from various perspectives. Students having concerns about their level of preparation should see their instructor.

Institutional Mechanism for Providing Feedback for Continuous Quality Improvement

Individual professors teaching this course will evaluate each student based on course objectives. Performance assessments will be summarized and reported to the department head or a designate, with separate assessments for relevant learning outcomes. Performance assessments from multiple sections and professors will be compiled into a single comparative report. This report will be utilized for periodic evaluation of ECON 330. The fundamental objective of reviewing student outcomes across course sections is to provide regular feedback for improving instructional effectiveness.