The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

1.3 Three strategies for teaching heterodoxy

There are three main strategies for incorporating a heterodox perspective in a course or programme.

1. Enriching an orthodox module

This approach uses heterodox concepts to shed new light on orthodox concepts essentially following a standard textbook treatment augmented by heterodox material. This 'orthodox-plus' approach is probably the most common form of 'heterodox' module, given that most undergraduate teaching is orthodox and opportunities to teach exclusively heterodox material are limited. This approach is described in section 2 and a more detailed example is described in section 6.1.

2. A module that focuses on an alternative system of thought

For example, a module might aim to provide students with a rich understanding of the way of thinking found either in a specific school of heterodox thought, such as Marxism, Post Keynesianism; or in a synthesised heterodox approach to, say, microeconomics. An example of such a module is shown in Table 2. However, these modules are rare in the UK and remain unusual in other countries, such as the USA. This approach is described in section 3 and some examples are discussed in section 6.2.

3. Teaching orthodox and heterodox economics in parallel

A series of topics of interest or theoretical concerns are taught first from one perspective, then from the other, allowing comparison. Barone (1991) describes an entire programme organised around this principle. This approach is described in section 4 and examples are summarised in section 6.3. Table 3 shows contrasted 'orthodox' and heterodox concepts. Tables 4a and 4b outline modules of parallel perspectives.

Option (1) is perhaps the most practical and the most commonly used. Option (2) means that justice can be done to heterodox ideas, but is often restricted to specialist, optional 'ghetto' modules, where the development of a critical understanding may be limited. This chapter argues that, pedagogically, option (3) is the most beneficial, because it is based on comparative, critical treatments of both orthodox and heterodox. Also, by committing to comparative treatment, the parallel perspectives approach can prevent the confusion which can occur when students are faced with different perspectives only occasionally. However, it may mean that fewer topics are covered in a module.

This chapter considers the three strategies, suggest activities which can be used in such programmes, outline possible module programmes and discuss examples of each.