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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE3780 Sustainable Development in Practice

10 creditsClass Size: 90

Module manager: Natalie Kopytko

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

Pre-requisite qualifications

Recommended prerequisites for this course include one or a combination of the following:
GEOG1065 Nature, Society and Environment
SOEE1110 Sustainable Development
SOEE2371 People, Sustainability, and the Environment

Students with alternative, but similar backgrounds, should contact the module leader to check suitability for entry onto this module


GEOG1065Nature, Society and Environment
SOEE1110Sustainable Development
SOEE2371People, Sustainability, and the Environment

Module replaces

SOEE3420 Sustainable Development Challenges & Practice (20 credit module)

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

We face multiple challenges to achieving sustainable development in practice. Achieving a balance between social, economic and environmental issues is a very complicated task. Not only do we need to appreciate the full complexity of the issues, we also need to come up with realistic strategies that will satisfy a range of stakeholders. We are challenged with addressing the problems of today, correcting yesterday's mistakes and looking into an uncertain future. In this module our goal is to expose you to a range of issues in this challenging field and draw on research-based case study experience of staff from a range of global socio-environmental settings.After a brief introduction to the module and some reflection on the challenges we face to achieving sustainable development in practice, we will guide you through a process of environmental decision making and development planning: a way of bringing complex information and people together to come up with solutions to problems. The module is structured around a ‘project cycle’ framework as widely used in Sustainable Development projects and policy development. Key sustainable development problems will be introduced in the form of case studies that will be investigated in greater depth during group work throughout the remainder of the semester. Guided by lectures, workshops and participatory group work, students will: 1) discuss and propose solutions - visions for an ideal world, 2) consider specific strategies to help move from these problems to the solutions and 3) decide ways of measuring progress towards these goals. Students are encouraged to first understand the problem, secondly to determine where you want to end up (the “ideal solution”), thirdly to design specific do-able strategies to help you on the road, and finally to decide on how you will monitor whether or not your strategies are working. To help illustrate the complexity of these steps, assessed work will reflect stages of this process.Students will work through the “deliberative process” and where appropriate use “role play” in a group with up to 5 others to develop and propose key solutions to the problems associated with one of these case studies. Each group will deliver an oral presentation (worth 30% of module mark) that presents 1) a critical evaluation of the development problem the group has been assigned to, 2) a critical reflection on the methodological process the group went through to devise a holistic vision and strategies, 3) the vision and strategies that will contribute to solving (some of) the problems within the case study. After receiving feedback on the group process, individually students will then write a short “policy brief” that pitches their ideas to the policy maker or donor. The policy brief will focus on the actual strategies proposed to reach the vision and how strategies will be monitored to evaluate progress. This is where students will be expected to work beyond the initial plans developed by the group and develop their own set of novel strategies and indicators. This briefing document, whilst concise, must be regarded as an encapsulation of considerable previous work. To reflect this, the assignment is worth 70% of module mark.


1. To develop skills in the analysis of critical issues facing sustainable development;
2. To develop deep understanding through practice of the complexities inherent in achieving sustainable development.
3. To develop working understanding of one type of deliberative process for sustainable development decision making.
4. To recognise the need for managers to compromise when making decisions, and to acknowledge the fact that any decision in the management of sustainable development will involve trade-offs.
5. To further appreciate the relevance of group work and group decision-making processes in sustainable development practice.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students should have:
1. Developed skills in the analysis of critical issues facing sustainable development practice;
2. An understanding of the complexities inherent in achieving sustainable development.
3. A working understanding of one type of deliberative process for sustainable development decision making.
4. Recognition of the need for managers to compromise when making decisions, and acknowledge the fact that any decision will involve trade-offs.
5. A better appreciation of group work and group decision-making processes

Skills outcomes
The module places considerable emphasis on:
• Critically evaluating and tackling complex issues.
• Understanding the balance between generalized theory and site-specific context.
• Project development
• Developing skills in participatory methods and processes
• Written and oral communication to non-academic audiences.
• Group work, team building and conflict resolution, including group goal setting, task allocation, decision making.
The module places moderate emphasis on:
• Receiving and responding to a variety of sources of information, including academic literature, activist publications, governmental reports and internet sources.


Key topics covered include:
1. Sustainable development in practice – the challenges
2. Overcoming challenges: Planning for Sustainable Development (Project Development Cycle and Theories of Change)
3. Devising visions for sustainable development planning
4. Devising strategies
5. Participation participatory methods in practice
6. Monitor progress towards a vision – devising indicators
7. Project Implementation & Adaptation
8. Pitching ideas to the policy makers and donors: oral presentation & policy brief writing

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Group learning32.006.00
Private study hours74.70
Total Contact hours25.30
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Private study

Students on this module will be expected to independently research their case study problem and as a group to use this information to develop ideas for the project work and associated assignments. A reading list for each case study will be provided by case study staff.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

• Summative feedback during the practical group session from the facilitator.
• Summative feedback during in class presentations.
• Formative feedback from marking of group presentations.
• Summative feedback during the group tutorial.
• Formative feedback from marking of policy briefs.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
PresentationGroup presentation 15 mins + 5 mins Q&A30.00
PracticalAttendance to progress0.00
Report page policy brief70.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The re-sit for the is a 4 page critical review of the planning process and project development plans. In relation to the group work and associated presentation, individuals will peer assess participation of individuals within their group. Students need to attempt BOTH assignments to pass the module.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 12/10/2020 08:41:43


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