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

Undergraduate Course: Practising Action Research for Sustainability (SCIL10088)

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) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryPractising Action Research for Sustainability will experiment with project-based learning over two semesters. Students and staff will identify key sustainability issues, deciding on the specific thematic fields of enquiry, while also considering theoretical perspectives on these fields. Participants in the course will identify and work on group projects using a model of action research and will plan, and if feasible, carry out interventions. Students will produce a group report on their project, and any interventions made or proposed. Students will also produce two critical reflections on the process of learning and working collaboratively and problem-solving.
Course description The course introduces students to using action research to address sustainability challenges, mainly using the university as a fieldsite. The course will introduce students to the "Learning for Sustainability" (LfS) and "Education for Sustainable Development" (ESD) agendas. The HEA Education for Sustainable Development: Guidance for UK Higher Education Providers (June 2014) defines "education for sustainable development" as "the process of equipping students with the knowledge and understanding, skills and attributes needed to work and live in a way that safeguards environmental, social and economic wellbeing, both in the present and for future generations". In the Scottish context, ESD is guided by two Action Plans, Learning for our Future and the second Learning for Change, both of which inform this project. The course is thus intended to offer an opportunity to embed "Learning for Sustainability" in the School curriculum.

Specifically the course approaches LfS through action research. The approach to action research will be guided by the PAR toolkit produced by Pain et al (2008). PAR offers an approach to research which is (i) driven by participants (ii) offers a democratic approach to knowledge-making (iii) is collaborative and (iv) intended to result in some action. Students will work collaboratively, drawing in further stakeholders as needs be, and working through the cycles that PAR projects typically go through: planning; action; reflection and evaluation. As the course runs over two semesters, students should also be prepared to manage their workload over the year and in relation to their other courses, especially if they are carrying a heavier credit load in one semester.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesOnly visiting students who are present for the whole year can take the course.
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  50
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 40, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 156 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) critical reflection on course process and learning - semester 1 (25%)
critical reflection on course process and learning - semester 2 (25%)
group preparation for, and facilitation of, a session on the theme that group is working on (20%) (including submission of their written preparation materials and session plan, a record for moderators and external examiners, along with course organiser notes and feedback)
group project report, or appropriate format for reporting on the project (30%)
Feedback Students will work in groups, supported by a staff member, who will provide regular formative feedback on their project as it develops. Feedback on critical reflections and the group project report will be provided within 15 working days.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate a critical understanding of using action research to address sustainability issues
  2. engage a range of collaborative working techniques and skills for working effectively in groups and teams
  3. use a range of research skills to plan and execute a research project
  4. assess and mitigate the ethical issues which arise in collaborative research
Reading List
S. Kindon, R. Pain and M. Kesby (2007) Participatory Action Research Approaches and Methods: Connecting People, Participation and Place. Routledge.
Rachel Pain, Geoff Whitman, David Milledge & Lune Rivers Trust, Participatory Action Research Toolkit: An Introduction to Using PAR as an Approach to Learning, Research and Action available at;
Scottish Government (2006) Learning for Our Future: Scotland's First Action Plan for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development;
Scottish Government (2010) Learning for Change: Scotland's Second Action Plan for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
"The University as Living Lab",
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course students should have strengthened their skills in:
gathering evidence and using this to develop and support a line of argument or intervention
identifying and addressing problems
working effectively as part of a team, including facilitating each other's involvement in discussion and group work
doing action research
critically reflecting on their own learning.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Niamh Moore
Tel: (0131 6)50 8260
Course secretaryMs Siobhan Carroll
Tel: (0131 6)50 3079
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