Sustainability and Behaviour Change

Subject ENST90032 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

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

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 29-Feb-2016 to 29-May-2016
Assessment Period End 24-Jun-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 11-Mar-2016
Census Date 31-Mar-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 06-May-2016

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


Subject Overview:

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.

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


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

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.

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
100 Point Master of Public Policy and Management
100 Point Master of Social Policy
150 Point Master of Agricultural Sciences
150 Point Master of Public Policy and Management
150 Point Master of Social Policy
200 Point Master of Agricultural Sciences
200 Point Master of Public Policy and Management
200 Point Master of Social Policy
Climate Change
Climate Change
Conservation and Restoration
Education and Social Change
Governance, Policy and Communication
Governance, Policy and Markets
Sustainable Cities, Sustainable Regions
Sustainable Cities, Sustainable Regions
Tailored Specialisation
Tailored Specialisation
Waste Management

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