The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

Clearly, the extent to which those elements are assessed depends on the level and type of the module. For example, a first-year student may have less expected of them in terms of reflexivity, writing style and research skills, given that these are transferable skills developed during the higher educative process. Similarly, a student on an orthodox-plus module would have less stressed placed on comparison. The assessment scheme will also affect what is assessed: obviously, a scheme comprising only multiple choice tests will not improve essay writing skills or the ability to develop an argument. However, tests are good ways of quickly testing understanding.

Tests can be very useful in particular on parallel perspectives modules. As Earl (2000) notes, students need to be eased into thinking comparatively. One way he suggests is to ask students to write essays and to provide extensive feedback on them. That process is very time consuming. Tests create space in the tutor's time and can be conducted in-class, for ease of organisation. An alternative of course is to use on-line tests, for instance programs which create unique sets of questions, and which are self-marking. Some examples of these are available at the Economics Network website. Both elements of those tests - the setting and marking of questions - remove an administrative burden from academic staff. Self-managed use of computer software can also assist learning. The only limitation in a heterodox or parallel perspectives module is that most of the existing tests are geared towards orthodox content. A final examination can be a way of testing all the skills simultaneously, through a mixed question format, incorporating short answer, data-response, medium-length and essay questions, all of which types the student would be expected to attempt. The short- to medium-length questions may be compulsory with students given a choice of essay question. Short answer questions may require simple factual responses - for instance to identify which of a list of economists could be regarded as either orthodox or heterodox. Other questions require slightly longer, more detailed answers - for instance to explain a particular model.