AP2ID2-Approaches to International Development

Module Provider: School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Pre-requisites: AP1ID1 International Development: Global and Local Issues and AP1EE3 Economics 1 or GV1HGI Introducing Human Geography and AP1ID1 International Development: Global and Local Issues
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2020/1

Module Convenor: Dr Andrew Ainslie

Email: a.m.ainslie@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

How do development actors justify their role and their work? Our premise here is that all development interventions - whether policy or programmatic – ultimately rely on social and economic theory. You’ll learn where some seventy years of mainstream and more radical ideas about development spring from, how they’re connected to each other, and what authority they have in the world. Through reading, lectures, seminars and discussions, you’ll learn to recognise and debate key features of the contemporary intellectual architecture of development.


The module consists of Two Parts.

Part 1 (Autumn semester) will focus on general international development theory that informs global development policies and processes and which are particularly relevant to low and middle-income countries (LMICs). This includes a consideration of: (i) where the modern notion of ‘development’ springs from and what constitutes contemporary ‘mainstream’ international development’s ‘theories of change’, including in/by different disciplines and a range of development actors. (ii) Structuralist and critical approaches to development including Marxist political economy, dependency- and world systems theory and post-development theory. (iii) Feminist-inspired gender-based theories of development and tools for Gender Analysis. (iv) The rise of ‘people-centred’ development: participation/ empowerment, good governance, livelihoods and social protection. (v) Sen’s Capability Approach and applications of the notion of well-being. (vi) Cultures of development and the ethics of development (vii) Alternative Development theories, including approaches that emphasise Environmental Limits to Growth. (viii) Geographies of Resistance, Structural Violence and Contemporary Social Movements. (ix) Collective/Reflexive learning from development practice (x) The end of development and/or McDonaldisation? Possible directions for international development in the 21st century and a multi-polar world.

Part 2 (Spring semester) will focus on topics in economic development, linking current topics to underlying economic theory, with an emphasis on the environment. Topics will, include the following. :Economic growth in the 21st century: We will use theory and data to address whether we expect to find, and whether indeed we do find, linkages between economic growth, poverty, inequality, and environmental quality. Motivated in part by China’s recent experiences and policies, we will ask whether “green growth” can be a reality, or whether rapid economic growth must always be accompanied by rapid growth in pollution. (ii)“Renewables”: We will consider the role of forests and fisheries in people’s livelihoods in LMICs, how they are managed, and how they are being drawn into global debates, and link this to theories of why common pool resources are particularly tricky to manage.(iii) “Global commons”: We will segue from local commons to global commons, exploringe how economics has informed the development of new global markets for biodiversity and carbon, and thus how low and middle income countries are increasingly being included in international discussions on climate and biodiversity; and the implications for sovereignty and the commodification of nature; (iv) “Land struggles”: Domestic land and labour markets have long featured in economic development theory. We will study early theories of these markets, focusing on different contracts found in LMICs, why we find them, and the implications. We will then reflect on the rise in so-called “land-grabs” – large scale land acquisitions by foreign companies and governments. Students will be encouraged to think critically about the theoretical frameworks which lie behind different approaches to international development, and the forms and practices to which these approaches give rise. Students will be expected to engage rigorously with both the motives for and the implications of development policy and praxis as these are applied in the real world.

Assessable learning outcomes:

On completion of the module, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a coherent understanding of at least four different theoretical approaches to the study of international development.

  2. Demonstrate an ability to critically analyse the conceptual framework(s) used to frame a development issue and the preferred modes of intervention.

  3. Articulate a coherent, theoretically-informed and evidence-based position on a specific development intervention.

  4. Clearly show a critical appreciation of the contributions that economists and other development specialists make to understanding international development.

Additional outcomes:

Students will also further hone the following transferable skills:

  1. critical reasoning skills – improved ability to make evidence-based arguments with respect to theories of development

  2. literature search and evaluation skills, especially in relation to internet-based literature

  3. debating skills – the ability to think on one’s feet

  4. time management skills and the ability to perform under pressure

Outline content:

Global context:

This course has an intrinsic global content. Students will be introduced to concepts, models, and key theories in international development that relate to low and middle income countries around the world. Students will be provided with concrete examples from different countries and encouraged to share their experiences.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Teaching methods will include structured lectures, seminars, group work, video clips and other media. Students will be encouraged to participate in lectures and will need to undertake significant preparatory reading. Learning activities outside the class will involve guided reading and participation in groups in preparation for class discussion.

Assessments will test the different skills that students will develop through the module.  The class test will ensure that s tudents have grasped the key theoretical concepts introduced in Part1. The test will require a mix of both short and longer, essay-length answers. In Part 2 (Spring Term), the graded report will give the students a chance to demonstrate their ability to synthesise information from a number of different sources to make a coherent argument in a key area of international development of their choice. The examination will provide students with an opportunity to bring together the skills and knowledge that they have developed in the module.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 20 20
Guided independent study: 80 80
Total hours by term 100 100
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Report 25
Class test administered by School 25

Summative assessment- Examinations:
One two hour paper – Answer three essay questions from a choice of six.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:

The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:
A mark of 40% overall.

Reassessment arrangements:
By examination.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

Last updated: 17 July 2020


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