Here we focus on courses that focus on gaining reflective knowledge and developing and practising reflective skills. This is crucial for any professional and especially for economists who have influential societal roles. Being able to reflect on the methodology behind research, the historical context in which economic ideas exist, and the place economists hold in today’s society are critical to make informed and responsible decisions.
Methodology and philosophy of science
The philosophy of science, economic methodology, ontology and epistemology provide important foundations for doing and evaluating research methods. Learning about this, helps students to choose suitable methodologies for their own research projects and develop their critical thinking when encountering research results.
History of economic thought
History of thought about the economy is a crucial element in the training of future economists, for two reasons. First, it helps to structure and understand current ideas. It enables students to organise and group the various insights they gain, by giving them an overview of their shared roots. This helps students to develop a more direct or personal relationship to economic ideas and theories, as well as prominent (economic) thinkers. Second, it shows that the current paradigm is not the only way to think about the economy and that ideas about the economy change over time. This encourages critical thinking and provides students with fresh insights from a broad set of ideas, old and new.
The roles of economists in society
It is important that students learn early on to reflect on their societal roles as social scientists, policy makers and educators. Humility and a focus on the real world are a crucial part of this. 97% of economics students will never go on to the finesse and accompanying modesty of detailed research work within academia, but rather become practitioners (Colander & McGoldrick, 2010; de Goede et al., 2014). This majority needs to be trained in the limitations of their perspective for when they staff many of the country’s most important institutions, such as the central bank and the ministries of finance, economic and social affairs. Visiting these institutions where economists work or inviting employees for guest lectures can help provide a realistic understanding of the role of economists in the real world. A better idea of the kind of professional activities they will experience in the future also allows students to better understand the relevance of what they are being taught. Presenting and reflecting on literature can help students deepen their understanding.