PSYCH 715 : Psychology and Sustainability


2020 Semester One (1203) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Human behaviour and thinking is central to both the sustainability problem and viable solutions. This course considers the psychological barriers to thinking and acting sustainably and how theories and research on emotions, modelling, identity, belonging, moral development and the evolution of cooperation can be applied to overcome these barriers. There will be particular emphasis on how to develop 'sustainability consciousness' in individuals and organisations.

Course Overview

What would a sustainable society look like? How can psychology help us get there? If you are concerned about the viability of our current way of life, and keen to explore how we can create a future that promotes human and ecological flourishing then this course is for you. Welcome!
The first half of the course will consist of lectures, discussions, group exercises and readings on a) sustainability values b) sustainability threats c) dialogue and consensus decision making and d) how research on emotions, learning through imitation, identity, belonging, and moral development can be applied to address these issues and promote values-based sustainability. Students will write an opinion piece on a sustainability issue and undertake a personal challenge.
The second half of the course will involve students proposing a strategy or intervention to encourage a sustainability “culture” or sustainability practices within an organisation or community you are familiar with. Alternatively, you could propose a broader social change initiative. Each student will then showcase their proposal in a 15 minute presentation and give feedback to their classmates. 

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Understand what values-based sustainability means and how society promotes and hinders this. (Capability 2 and 6)
  2. Develop understanding of the psychology of values, emotions, learning through imitation, identity, belonging, moral development, dialogue and consensus methods. (Capability 1)
  3. Develop and demonstrate a good understanding of at least one sustainability issue that interests you. (Capability 6)
  4. Demonstrate critical reflection and writing. (Capability 2, 4 and 5)
  5. Be able to search for, analyse and integrate information on a sustainability issue. (Capability 2 and 6)
  6. Apply psychological knowledge to sustainability issues. (Capability 1 and 6)
  7. Design a sustainability intervention or social change strategy based on psychological principles in a real world setting. (Capability 1, 3 and 6)
  8. Present well constructed and compelling short talks. (Capability 4)
  9. Be able to listen actively and give constructive feedback to others. (Capability 2 and 4)
  10. Facilitate deep-level dialogue between people. (Capability 4)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Personal challenge group presentation 5% Group Coursework
Personal challenge written report 20% Individual Coursework
Proposal presentation 10% Individual Coursework
Feedback to classmates 2% Individual Coursework
Proposal report 48% Individual Coursework
Opinion piece 15% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Personal challenge group presentation
Personal challenge written report
Proposal presentation
Feedback to classmates
Proposal report
Opinion piece

Learning Resources

Harré, N. (2018). Psychology for a Better World: Working with People to Save the Planet. Auckland University Press: Auckland.
For other readings use the ‘reading lists’ or ‘modules’ tabs on Canvas. 

Special Requirements

You are expected to attend all the sessions as they are highly interactive and involve the class learning from each other. One session will be an optional drop in session to help you develop your proposal. This  will be scheduled for the second half of the semester. 

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15  point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 3 hours of lectures/seminars, 1 - 2 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 5 - 6 hours of work on presentations and written assignments per week. Note that in the first half of the semester this will include preparation for a group presentation. Class time will also be provided for groups to work together on the group presentation. 

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website at

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page:

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter (


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 11/01/2020 03:17 p.m.