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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Sociology

Undergraduate Course: Responding to sustainability challenges: critical debates (SCIL10082)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course will explore and appraise a diverse range of actual and proposed methods of responding to sustainability challenges, from advertising campaigns aimed at individuals to technological and policy innovations. We will focus particularly but not exclusively on responses to climate change. The course will use active, innovative educational methods such as debates, blogging and peer learning. It will encourage students to reflect on their learning goals and experiences, and their personal responses to sustainability issues.
Course description Normally this course will only be available to students taking the MA in Sustainable Development. However, other students who have successfully completed all three pre-requisite courses who would like to take this course may contact the Course Organiser to ask if that is possible. The decision will be at the Course Organiser's discretion (and will be based on ensuring that numbers do not get too large).
We will begin by seeking to understand why problem-based information is not sufficient to change everyday behaviour, drawing on theoretical and empirical work on the information-deficit model and the value-action gap. The course will then explore debates around responding to sustainability challenges at a variety of scales from individual to international, and from NGO campaigns to policy and governance. Example topics and questions include: are fear appeals an effective way to stimulate behavioural change?; the ethics of using 'nudge' policies to create a more sustainable society; should we consider geoengineering the climate? Students will be encouraged to relate theory to case studies and everyday practice, and to develop their own thinking on, and engagement with, the complex social, political, and moral issues involved.
Course delivery will involve classroom and online learning. Students will need to do preparatory work every week, which will involve activities such as reading, watching videos, researching information for a debate or preparing a short presentation. Students will be expected to play a full part in learning activities; these will be varied (e.g. small group discussions, problem-solving, reflective exercises) so that hopefully participants will find the course very engaging, useful for developing transferable skills and enjoyable.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Sustainable Development 1a: Introducing Sustainable Development (SCIL08008) AND Science and Society 1b: Nature and Environment (SCSU08004) AND Sustainable Development 2a: Perspectives on Sustainable Development (SCIL08009)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  26
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 5, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 15, Online Activities 5, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 171 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 90 %, Practical Exam 10 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Online quizzes: 10%
Pre-class online quizzes to check completion and understanding of preparatory learning and to provide feedback to students and course organiser about material to go over in class.
Blog assignment: 40%
Blog posts totalling 1,500-2,000 words in which students will be asked to write reflectively and reflexively about their own learning about sustainability and how course material relates to their lives and to a sustainability challenge each student will set themselves.
'Debate' assignment: 50%
1,500-2,000 word written assignment discussing the arguments involved in one of the debates covered during the course or another debate which relates to the theme of 'responding to sustainability challenges'.
Feedback Assignments other than quizzes will be returned with feedback within 15 working days of submission. Quiz assignments will offer immediate feedback for questions with closed answers.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Explain why promoting sustainable lifestyles involves more than educating people about sustainability problems.
  2. Discuss factors that shape how people receive and respond to information about sustainability issues.
  3. Assess competing claims and make informed judgements about proposed/actual responses to sustainability challenges.
  4. Present, orally and in writing, coherent arguments about the advantages/disadvantages of particular responses to sustainability challenges.
  5. Write reflectively and reflexively about sustainability challenges and potential responses, and about how sustainability issues relate to their own lives.
Reading List
A list of weekly readings to prepare for classes will be provided in the Course Handbook.
Useful background readings include:

Capstick, S., I. Lorenzoni, A. Corner and L. Whitmarsh (2015) Prospects for radical emissions reduction through behavior and lifestyle change. Carbon Management DOI: 10.1080/17583004.17582015.11020011.
Dolan, P., M. Hallsworth, D. Halpern, D. King, R. Metcalfe and I. Vlaev (2012) Influencing behaviour: The mindspace way. Journal of Economic Psychology 33(1): 264-277.
Geels, F. W., A. McMeekin, J. Mylan and D. Southerton (2015) A critical appraisal of Sustainable Consumption and Production research: The reformist, revolutionary and reconfiguration positions. Global Environmental Change 34: 1-12.
Oskamp, S. (2000) Psychological Contributions to Achieving an Ecologically Sustainable Future for Humanity. Journal of Social Issues 56(3): 373-390.
Spence A, Pidgeon N (2009) Psychology, Climate Change and Sustainable Behavior. Environment 51:8-18.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The course will encourage students to strengthen their ability to:
- find, evaluate, and use information to support a line of reasoning
- communicate clearly
- work effectively individually and with others
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Rachel Howell
Tel: (0131 6)51 1384
Course secretaryMiss Lauren Ayre
Tel: (0131 6)50 4001
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