Student cycling along Frenchay Campus path

Professional course

Creating Sustainable Behaviour Change

About this course

Course code:
Professional/Short Course
Geography and Environmental Management
5 days
Delivered through interactive workshops and presentations
Course director:
Dr Georgina Gough

Page last updated 1 May 2019


The Department of Geography and Environmental Management offers a portfolio of short courses that focus on the urgent challenges faced by organisations, communities and government in effecting sustainable change in individual behaviour, business practice and wider society.

The courses are suitable for professionals in existing sustainability roles who need to update their knowledge and skills, as well as career changers and recent graduates who are looking to build and differentiate their CV in the highly competitive sustainability sector.

This course explores the nature of human behaviour within the context of the promotion of environmentally sustainable, low carbon and healthy behaviour. The historical context of the term 'behaviour change' will be examined in terms of changing political relationships between the individual, the state and civil society. A range of different theoretical approaches to understanding behaviour will be studied and evaluated within the context of the promotion of a range of sustainable, pro-social and pro-environmental behaviours. A range of case studies and examples of government tools and strategies for promoting behaviour change will be critically examined.

Indicative topics covered include:

The philosophical, ethical and ideological underpinnings of current discourses on behaviour change including central concepts such as autonomy, free will, self determination, choice, responsibility, structure and agency

  • The 'Values and Frames' approach to pro-social and pro-environmental behaviours
  • Behavioural economics and social psychology
  • Practice theory and other sociological approaches
  • Community based interventions
  • Implementation issues in behaviour change interventions
  • Measuring and evaluating change
  • The evolution of government policies on behaviour change relevant to sustainability.

This course forms one module of the MSc Sustainable Development in Practice. They may be taken separately or combined to build towards a Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or MSc if desired.



What do I get out of it?

By the end of the module the student should be able to:

  • Critically discuss the philosophical, ethical and ideological underpinnings of current discourse on behaviour change.
  • Critically discuss a range of theoretical approaches to understanding the drivers for human behaviour, including economic, psychological and sociological approaches.
  • Critically discuss and evaluate a range of behaviour change models, interventions and policy-based initiatives applied to issues of sustainability, and develop implications for policy, practice and research.
  • Make critical use of relevant theoretical frameworks and concepts in the planning and implementation of behaviour change interventions.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how behaviour change interventions can be evaluated and measured.

What does it cover?

This course is structured around three themes:

Perspectives on individual and community change: This topic examines some of the main theories and models that attempt to understand behaviour change from the perspective of social psychology.  Theories and models including Social Cognitive Theory, Self-efficacy model, Health Belief Model, Theory of reasoned action, Theory of planned behaviour and the Transtheoretical model (Stage of Change) will be introduced and analysed through examples and case studies to give insight into their strengths and limitations in practice.  Practical sessions will give students hands-on experience of designing theory-driven interventions for pro-sustainability behaviour change.

Wider social and political perspectives on "behaviour change": This topic will introduce students to a range of different perspectives on behaviour change and the potential that they offer for designing effective solutions to the challenge of creating wide-scale social change in relation to sustainability. Students will be introduced to approaches to behaviour change that are underpinned by behavioural economics.  As part of this Students will consider how such approaches (including the popularised 'Nudge thesis') have influenced policies developed by the UK government's Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights team. Such approaches will be critically compared with alternative sociological perspectives that attempt to understand behaviour as the manifestation of underlying 'social practices'. This topic will also look at  social marketing and the debates that surround the influence of this field on understanding behaviour change.

Integrated and non-mainstream approaches to "behaviour change": This topic introduces a further layer of perspectives on the subject of behaviour change. The topic starts with a session focused on the role of emotions and unconsciousness - both at individual and collective levels and how this may help us understand, for example, such phenomenon as climate change denial. We will then consider 'values and frames', a contemporary and increasingly influential approach to addressing action on sustainability. This topic concludes with a workshop on the vices and virtues of adopting an integrated approach to the field.

Each of these themes are taught by a team of expert practitioners in the field, thereby ensuring students benefit from both theoretical and practice-based insights.

Learning and Teaching

The courses are taught through a mixture of face-to-face and independent learning comprising lectures, workshops and group discussion. Each course culminates with the completion of a project that can be undertaken to gain UWE masters level credit if desired. The pattern of contact sessions is highly accessible for those who wish to study part-time.

This is a highly participative course. Delivery methods are primarily experiential and participant-centred, engaging you in practical exercises, personal study, and critical reflection upon the relationship between theory and practice.

Study time

The course is structured around four contact days, which take place on consecutive weeks. Students undertake a significant amount of directed and independent study between and after the contact sessions. To complete the course and assessment (if taken), we recommend students allocate approximately 150 hours including taught sessions and personal study time. This is only a guideline and will depend on the participants' motivation and learning abilities.


Participants who wish to receive credit for their learning can undertake the assessed project at the end of the course. On successful completion, the course credits may then be used towards one of our postgraduate  qualifications in Sustainable Development in Practice You may also use the credit towards one of UWE's postgraduate qualifications in Integrated Professional Development.

To achieve accreditation for this module, you will need to successfully complete a project in which you apply different perspectives on behaviour change to explain or account for the sustainability issue, and inform practical approaches to address the sustainability issue.

Formative assessment will be carried out throughout the course by setting regular tasks for students that will assess their grasp of the material covered. Tasks will be reviewed as part of the sessions.


Prices and dates

Supplementary fee information

DatesUK & EU Students fee / International Students fee
This course will next run in our 2019-20 academic year. To be kept up-to-date with our course dates please complete the enquiry form below.TBC

*Please note parking and refreshments are not provided as part of your course fee.

How to apply

How to apply

January 2020Enquire Now

Extra information

If you would like further information about this course or about the postgraduate qualifications in Sustainable Development in Practice, please email Dr Georgina Gough or telephone +44(0)117 32 87139.

For further information

  • Email: For all queries regarding administration aspects of registration, i.e. dates, fees, etc. please contact us using the online enquiry form link. For any questions in relation to the course, i.e. content, suitability, assessments, etc. please contact the Course Director.
  • Telephone: +44 (0)117 32 86304

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