The Handbook for Economics Lecturers

In the early years of your career, you are likely to find yourself teaching established modules (courses) that have been taught before, being part of an existing programme and with all the accompanying documentation prepared. However, at some point you will want to branch out and design your own module; perhaps one that aligns with your research interests. It may even be that the time comes when you have ideas about how the programme itself should be structured, or you want to design a programme of your own choosing. This chapter discusses some of the steps that you would need to follow in order to be successful in module and programme design.

The chapter extends, updates and complements the earlier chapter on ‘Designing undergraduate degree programmes’ by Rebecca Taylor (2002).

It has never been more important to ensure that the education we provide for our students fits their needs and meets their expectations in an increasingly competitive job market. Thoughtful and well-planned module and curriculum design can provide a framework for this.

Students who expect to complete their degree programme with substantial debts need to know that the education they receive will prepare them for their life beyond graduation. A thorough and rigorous grounding in a subject will still be important, but the ability to apply disciplinary thinking in a variety of employment settings will also be crucial. Furthermore, there are more generic skills that need to be embedded into the curriculum alongside the disciplinary components. Graduates need to be prepared to adapt to a rapidly changing global environment, in ways that we cannot foresee.

As economists, we know that the subject engenders a way of thinking that is indeed widely applicable in many different contexts. However, this needs to be clear in the design of our modules and curriculum.

In any move towards designing — or redesigning — a module or curriculum we must be aware of the constraints within which we must operate. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), as the regulatory body for UK HE institutions, provides the framework that shapes the structure and content of the curriculum, but allows for considerable flexibility.

This chapter will explore how the economics curriculum, and the modules that are its components, can be designed to maximise its appeal to students and employers, without losing the rigour of analysis that we hold dear.