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Sustainability and Behaviour Change (ENST90032)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2017
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeENST90032
Semester 1
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

It is perhaps obvious that human behaviour is having a negative impact on our environment. Behavioural change, thus, is pivotal to ensure a more environmentally sustainable future. However the question of behavioural change is vexed. Some argue that humans are ‘naturally’ greedy and selfish, others suggest that we are ‘puppets’ - the victims of the social structures engendered by capitalism, and yet others trust that good behaviour will follow from the ‘truth’; knowledge about environmental problems. These and other views of behaviour set up particular change strategies. The above examples suggest three strategies for changing behaviour: provide people with incentives that will lead them to ‘choose’ different behaviours, or the transformation of social structures such as capitalism and patriarchy, or the provision of environmental education.

This subject examines the question of behavioural change from a number of disciplinary perspectives (psychology, sociology ecology, marketing and economics). Each discipline ‘sees’ the problem differently and this allows us to map insights and gaps in these knowledges. These purported differences can be understood and reconciled; behaviour is show to be a function of the physical, social and psychological aspects of social practices. This allows for a more holistic understanding of behaviour and the strategies that might create behaviour change.

NB: This subject uses a ‘flipped classroom’ mode of delivery. Most weeks require the watching of a vodcast prior to attending a 2 hour seminar. The success of the seminars and student learning is governed by individuals’ preparation and participation. This subject covers a lot of theory and requires active engagement. The consideration of societal behaviour change will likely engender a consideration of your own behaviour, including as a student.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this subject, students will be able to:

  • Critically engage with and reflect on ‘common-sense’ understandings of behaviour and behaviour change
  • Critically engage with the behaviour change literature through an evaluation of the ways different theoretical perspectives inform behaviour change strategies
  • Understand that behaviour change for greater environmental sustainability is a ‘wicked problem’ that requires multiple strategies for success
  • Integrate knowledge from across disciplines to propose strategies for behaviour change

Topics and themes include:

  • The effect of disciplines: behaviour and behavioural change from the perspectives of psychology, sociology, behavioural economics, ecology and marketing
  • How insights afforded by the disciplines can be used to create an more holistic and integrated understanding of behaviour change
  • Critiquing programs for behaviour change

Weekly topics: (1) Defining behaviour, (2) Perspectives: Behavioural Economics, (3) Perspectives: Marketing, (4) Perspectives: Psychology, (5) Perspectives: Sociology, (6) Perspective Ecology, (7) Integration, (8) Strategies: Social Marketing, (9) Strategies: Nudge, (10) Trans-disciplinary Perspectives 1, (11) Trans-disciplinary Perspectives 2

Generic skills

Students in this unit should:
1. Enhance their interdisciplinary thinking and learning skills.
2. Further develop their critical thinking though readings, class discussions, and assessment.
3. Further develop analytical approaches to environmental issues of complexity and uncertainty.

Last updated: 23 May 2019