Some reasons for giving students opportunities to develop an understanding of the principles of heterodox economics are presented in Figure 3.
Currently, there is only sparse evidence on whether teaching heterodox economics can deliver the outcomes suggested in Figure 3. Barone (1991) makes several claims in his analysis of (his institution) Dickinson College's move towards contending perspectives. In terms of intellectual development, Barone claims that the college's students 'as a result of heterodox integration… moved from dualistic to relativistic to critical forms of thinking' (Barone, 1991: 22). He claims that students' understanding is enhanced by the exposure to a wide range of phenomena. Further, he claims, students are better prepared to engage in policy debates because they are used to dealing with multiple perspectives.
Barone acknowledges that he has no objective data on student performance on neoclassical material, but there was no noticeable fall off either. Indeed, Barone claims that performance may have improved: for example, the number of students going on to graduate study in (orthodox) economics increased after the curriculum change. Overall, Barone (1991: 21) says:
'Our students' response to heterodox economic theory has been overwhelmingly positive. They have found it both intellectually challenging and stimulating. There have been lively and healthy classroom discussions comparing and contrasting different perspectives. Students are developing a greater appreciation for the complexity of economic issues and problems. They are more critical and want to know how they are to choose among these contending perspectives. This, of course, has opened the door to a discussion of the nature of explanation and how to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a theory. The different value orientation of each theory generates discussions of values and ethical issues and their relationship to theory.'
Thus, according to Barone, the experiment at his college managed to achieve the key aims of the approach: intellectual development, sophistication of argument, and understanding of economics and the economy.
A different case is also illustrative. Bucknell University, USA, has a tradition of teaching heterodox economics to undergraduates. Bucknell introduces heterodox theory at level 1, runs parallel streams of orthodox and heterodox modules at level 2, and offers a range of heterodox options at level 3. Economics is the second largest major on campus. Moreover, many students go on to postgraduate economics study. The Bucknell case suggests that heterodox content can aid student recruitment.
1.2.1 Student feedback
Module evaluations provide a routine source of information about students' experience of teaching. When the module evaluation gives students an opportunity for a free response the results are usually instructive. Figure 4 presents a selection of student comments in their written evaluations of a heterodox module taught by the author. These are indicative of possible outcomes of heterodox teaching and could be followed up by anyone interested in investigating the likelihood of these outcomes.
There is evidence here of the challenge posed to students. One student complains that the heterodox approach was too open. Another cites the difficulty that is inherent in contrasting theoretical perspectives. These comments reflect Earl's (2000) concerns, that comparative analysis at the beginning of a module is difficult for some students. However, challenge can also be seen as a good thing, driving students towards higher levels of achievement, particularly in their critical thinking. This is apparent in the frequent reference to argument and argumentation. A number of students remark that hearing two sides of an argument is beneficial. A number of students also believe that their ability to construct arguments has improved.