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Sustainability and Behaviour Change (ENST90032)

Graduate courseworkPoints: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelGraduate coursework
Subject codeENST90032
Semester 1
Semester 2
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.

Eligibility and requirements





Non-allowed subjects


Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home


Additional details

1 x 2000 word journal due week 15 (40%), 1 x 3,000 word essay, due week 14 (60%)

NB: a draft of the journal, covering the first 5 weeks, will be due in week 6 to enable early feedback.

Notes re assessments:

The journal is to be written as reflexive piece – see http://services.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/675776/Writing_Reflectively_051112.pdf

Students are required to keep a weekly journal of their learnings and the questions that are being raised for them. Together with the weekly vodcasts, readings, seminar discussions and further research the weekly entries are to be crafted into a narrative that explores your learning

Essay themes to address:

Having identified an environmental issue (of your choosing), identify strategies for addressing the issue by examining a multi- or trans-disciplinary approach to behaviour change.

Dates & times

  • Semester 1
    Principal coordinatorGeoffrey Binder
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hoursTwo hours of seminars per week. 2 hours x 12 weeks = 24 contact hours.
    Total time commitment120 hours
    Teaching period 4 March 2019 to 2 June 2019
    Last self-enrol date15 March 2019
    Census date31 March 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail10 May 2019
    Assessment period ends28 June 2019

    Semester 1 contact information

  • Semester 2
    Principal coordinatorGeoffrey Binder
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hoursTwo hours of seminars per week. 2 hours x 12 weeks = 24 contact hours
    Total time commitment120 hours
    Teaching period29 July 2019 to 27 October 2019
    Last self-enrol date 9 August 2019
    Census date31 August 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail27 September 2019
    Assessment period ends22 November 2019

Time commitment details

Approximately 120 hours, comprising class time, preparation and assignments.

Further information

Last updated: 16 August 2019