Transforming the economics curriculum by integrating threshold concepts

Prashan Shayanka Mendis Karunaratne*, Yvonne A. Breyer, Leigh N. Wood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – Economics is catering to a diverse student cohort. This cohort needs to be equipped with transformative concepts that students can integrate beyond university. When a curriculum is content-driven, threshold concepts are a useful tool in guiding curriculum re-design. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach – The evidence for this pedagogic need can be seen in the UK’s higher education economics curriculum framework which is formulated around the threshold concepts of economics. Through a literature review of the application of threshold concepts in economics, the researcher has systematically re-designed an entry-level economics course. This research has been applied to the course structure, the learning and teaching activities, as well as the assessments. At the end of the semester, students students were surveyed on the student experience of the curriculum design and the course activities. The course grades noted the achievement of the students’ learning outcomes. Findings – When comparing the survey responses and the student course results to the previous semesters, there is a significant improvement in student experience as well as student learning outcomes of the course curriculum. Practical implications – This research provides curriculum developers with a benchmark and the tools required to transform economics curricula. Social implications – An engaging, transformative and integrative entry-level economics course is often the only exposure most business graduates have to the economics way of thinking and practice. Originality/value – This is the first comprehensive study that applies a curriculum re-design based on threshold concepts across an entry-level economics course.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)492-509
Number of pages18
JournalEducation and Training
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2016


  • Curriculum design
  • Economics
  • Higher education
  • Learning and teaching
  • Threshold concepts


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