Developing the self in economics: The role of developmental space in an integrated undergraduate education

Kavanaugh, Ella, O'Kane, Assumpta, Blackshields, Daniel, Cronin, James, Higgs, Bettie, Kilcommins, Shane, McCarthy, Marian and Ryan, Anthony (2015) Developing the self in economics: The role of developmental space in an integrated undergraduate education. Integrative learning: International research and practice. pp. 130-142.


The work environment facing students presents challenges and opportunities for educators. As program director and external program advisor, we were presented with a challenge by the Head of School to design a new undergraduate program in Economics which would meet the demands of the twenty-first century workplace. Our initial research emphasized key skills required by Economics graduates such as: the application of economic theories and models, problem solving, and communication of economic analysis to different audiences. Huber and Hutchings have highlighted that integrative learning needs to be "intentional" and not left to just happen. It needs to be possible for all our students and not simply the best and brightest. Educators have to provide the scaffolding that makes this integrative learning possible. Being able to design a new program of prescribed courses across 3 years for a cohort of students provided the means to facilitate this type of systemic integration at program level. The aim of our new program in Economics is to generate in our students: The habits of thought that facilitate independent thinking and are necessary for the workplace today; the ability to create their own reasoned views and perspectives using Economics as a lens; and awareness of their own self and scholarly strengths and weaknesses and the capacity to continue on this self-development path after university. This chapter maps out the design features of this new program. Designing the program presented us with the challenge of how to integrate students' self and scholarly development. We looked to constructivist developmental psychology theorists and the transformational learning literature to consider the issues around transformation and the environmental conditions that are necessary to support this transformation. In the next section, we review the principal contributions from this wide literature and the pedagogy that emerged from this research. We then introduce the concept of "developmental space" as the systemic integrative tool, used across the program, for integrating learning about the self with the student's academic studies. Our view is that it is in the broad integrative nature of the program, presenting the opportunity for both scholarly and self-development. This new design has been trialed over 3 years. Finally, we demonstrate the specific design features of the program using a course offered in the final year of the program: "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations." (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved) (Source: chapter)

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