The overarching goal of our curriculum is to instill in our students the capacity for independent, critical inquiry into economic issues. The exercise of this capacity involves problem-solving, analytical reasoning, and the application of reflective judgment to reach defensible conclusions about questions for which there is no definitive answer (Gamett, Jr. Robert F. 2009. "Rethinking The Pluralist Agenda In Economics Education" International Review of Economics Education-8 (2) pp. 58-71.). These fundamental skills transcend the discipline of economics and are at the core of the capabilities we aspire to cultivate in all Willamette students.
In an effort to facilitate the development of such skills, the Economics Department has identified the following five student learning outcomes emphasized in the department’s curriculum:
The Student Learning Outcomes of the Economics Program include:
- The student can recognize economic theories as arguments. Economic theories can appear to be "fact" or "received truth," but they are neither. They are tools constructed by human beings as a means to understand particular aspects of the world in which we live. That is, they are arguments. As arguments they derive from premises--assumptions (stated and unstated) as well as the values of those putting them forward--and proceed to specific conclusions. A successful student will be able to identify the assumptions and values on which economic theories are constructed as well as the conclusions they reach.
- The student can understand economic arguments. A successful student can reproduce the deductive logic that links premises to conclusions in particular arguments. This requires knowledge of the analytical constructs (e.g. definition and calculation of basic economic indicators) and simplified models (e.g. the perfect market model) used to describe and analyze economic phenomena. It also involves the ability to apply deductive reasoning and problem-solving skills.
- The student can assess economic arguments. A successfully student can apply deductive logic, interpret evidence (including but not limited to statistical evidence), and apply moral/ethical reasoning to evaluate the premises and conclusions of an argument.
- The student can construct an economic argument. A successful student can formulate a question that needs to be researched, then master and assess existing arguments and evidence to reach a reasoned conclusion about that question.
- The student can communicate economic arguments. A successful student will be able to effectively communicate, both orally and in writing, his or her analysis of economic phenomena in an accessible way to the non-major.