Sustainability and Behavioural Change

Subject ENST90032 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 02-Mar-2015 to 31-May-2015
Assessment Period End 26-Jun-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 13-Mar-2015
Census Date 31-Mar-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 08-May-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Two hours of seminars per week. 2 hours x 12 weeks = 24 contact hours.
Total Time Commitment:

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

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

Graduate School of Science welcomes applications from students with disabilities. It is University and School policy to take reasonable steps to make reasonable adjustments so as to enable the student’s participation in the School’s programs. MSLE contributes to the New Generation degrees and offers a broad range of programs across undergraduate and post-graduate levels many of which adopt a multi-disciplinary approach.

Students of the School’s courses must possess intellectual, ethical, and emotional capabilities required to participate in the full curriculum and to achieve the levels of competence required by the School. Candidates must have abilities and skills in observation; motor in relevant areas; communication; in conceptual, integrative, and quantitative dimensions; and in behavioural and social dimensions.

Adjustments can be provided to minimise the impact of a disability, however students need to be able to participate in the program in an independent manner and with regard to their safety and the safety of others.

I. Observation: In some contexts, the student must be able to observe demonstrations and experiments in the basic and applied sciences. More broadly, observation requires reading text, diagrams, maps, drawings and numerical data. The candidate should be able to observe details at a number of scales and record useful observations in discipline dependant contexts.

II. Communication: A candidate should be able to communicate with fellow students, professional and academic staff, members of relevant professions and the public. A candidate must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively. Communication includes not only speech but also reading and writing.

III. Motor: Candidates should have sufficient motor function necessary for participation in the inherent discipline-related activities. The practical work, design work, field work, diagnostic procedures, laboratory tests, require varying motor movement abilities. Off campus investigations may include visits to construction sites, urban, rural and/or remote environments.

IV. Intellectual-Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities: These abilities include measurement, calculation, reasoning, analysis, and synthesis. Problem solving, the critical skill demanded of professionals in land and environment industries, requires all of these intellectual abilities. In addition, the candidate should be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand the spatial relationships of structures.

V. Behavioural and Social Attributes: A candidate must possess behavioural and social attributes that enable them to participate in a complex learning environment. Students are required to take responsibility for their own participation and learning. They also contribute to the learning of other students in collaborative learning environments, demonstrating interpersonal skills and an understanding of the needs of other students. Assessment may include the outcomes of tasks completed in collaboration with other students.

Students who feel their disability will prevent them from meeting the above academic requirements are encouraged to contact the Disability Liaison Unit.


Dr Geoffrey Binder


Graduate School of Science

Phone: 13 MELB (13 6352)

Subject Overview:

It is perhaps obvious that human behaviour is having a negative impact on our environment. Behavioural change, thus, is pivotal to ensuring 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 right behaviour will follow from correct knowledge about environmental problems. These and other views of behaviour set up particular change strategies. The above examples suggest that key to changing behaviour can be found in either providing people with incentives that will lead them to “choose” different behaviours, 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 so that their purported differences can be understood and reconciled; behaviour is show to be a function of the physical, social and psychological aspects of social practices. Studies from the disciplines of psychological, sociological, behavioural economics, ecology and marketing are used to problematize behavioural change. These perspectives provide a basis for understanding how behavioural change is constructed as a problem and the change strategies particular constructions engender.

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
  • Creating change: defining the ‘what’ to change, ‘how’ and evaluation of change programs

Lecture topics: (1) Defining behaviour, (2) Perspectives: Psychology, (3) Perspectives: Marketing, (4) Perspectives: Behavioural Economics, (5) Perspectives: Sociology, (6) Perspective Ecology, Strategies: Psychology, (7) Strategies: Marketing, (8) Strategies: Behavioural Economics, (9) Strategies: Sociology, (10) Strategies Ecology, (11) Trans-disciplinary Perspectives, (12) Trans-disciplinary Strategies


1 x 1,500 word essay due in the middle of semester (30%), and 1 x 3,500 word essay, due at the end of semester (70%)

Notes re assessments:

The essays are to be written as reflexive pieces – see

Students are required to keep a weekly journal of their learnings and the questions that are being raised for them. This material forms the basis of the essays, along with the podcasts, readings, seminar discussions and further research.

Essay 1 themes to address:

  • Identify the assumptions underpinning the theories being examined (how is human nature understood – what is fixed, what is mutable),
  • Identify the strategies that are said to affect behavioural change,

Essay 2 themes to address:

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

Prescribed Texts:

Students will be supplied with a list of required readings.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
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.

Related Course(s): Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Sciences
Graduate Diploma in Agricultural Sciences
Master of Agricultural Science
Master of Animal Science
Master of Food Science
Master of Public Administration
Master of Public Administration (Enhanced)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: 100 Point (A) Master of Agricultural Sciences
150 Point Master of Agricultural Sciences
200 Point Master of Agricultural Sciences
Climate Change
Climate Change
Governance, Policy and Communication
Governance, Policy and Communication
Sustainable Cities, Sustainable Regions
Sustainable Cities, Sustainable Regions
Tailored Specialisation
Tailored Specialisation

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