Tool 2: Adapting Existing Courses

Suggestions for incremental change to existing economics courses, drawn from the ten building blocks of Economy Studies.

Change often happens incrementally and slowly. In the economics textbook market, for example, there is an unwritten rule that new textbooks cannot differ more than roughly 15% from the standard textbook in order to be ‘acceptable’ (Colander, 2003).

While our book clearly breaks this rule and proposes more far-reaching and fundamental changes in most chapters, in this chapter we focus instead on how existing courses could be adjusted incrementally. By doing so, we hope to assist educators in improving and adapting the courses they teach without needing to rip them up and start again, as well as helping students make suggestions for how this could be done.

We do so by proposing additional contents to the standard set of economics courses. For every course, we start with a short discussion of what is currently included in typical courses on that topic. Secondly, we provide suggestions for what could be included by making use of the building blocks. As in other chapters, we provide a concise set of teaching materials here and a more extensive overview of suggested resources in the online resource Teaching Materials.

The suggestions and descriptions in this chapter are quite brief. For more details, we recommend turning to the building blocks noted above each paragraph.


For each of the standard courses, we first provide an overview of the typical contents of current courses and the most frequently used textbooks. We then offer suggestions for additions and changes to this standard content. Within each course, our suggestions are grouped into five categories, each consisting of two building blocks:

  • Practical skills and real-world knowledge: Building Block 2: Know Your Own Economy and Building Block 9: Problems & Proposals.
  • A diversity of analytical tools and approaches: Building Block 7: Research Methods & Philosophy of Science and Building Block 8: Economic Theories.
  • Institutions and different ways of organising the economy: Building Block 5: Economic Organisations & Mechanisms and Building Block 6: Political-Economic Systems.
  • Societal relevance and normative aspects: Building Block 1: Introducing the Economy and Building Block 10: Economics for a Better World.
  • History: Building Block 3: Economic History and Building Block 4: History of Economic Thought & Methods.

Coupled with these suggestions, we offer various options for potential teaching materials. Finally, we briefly discuss how to make space for this additional course content. After all, simply cramming more material into existing courses without freeing up space is not likely to serve students well, except perhaps the most prodigious students.

The suggestions and descriptions in this chapter are quite brief. For more details, we recommend turning to the building blocks noted above each paragraph.

It is important to note that we pose all these suggestions as potential sources of inspiration, not a checklist of all the things that necessarily should be included. After all, there is a practical limit to what can be taught within a single course. Furthermore, as also discussed in Foundation 6: The Didactics of Economics Education and Tool 7: Learning Objectives, courses can benefit from making more use of active learning activities. Even if this limits the amount of content that can be ‘covered’, it will likely increase the amount of content that students will ‘master’ (Hansen, 2011).