“Energy and People”, University of East Anglia (since 2014)

  • Lecturer: Tom Hargreaves and a teaching team, composed of social scientist lecturers
  • Program: BSc in Environmental Sciences or Geography
  • Duration: 12 weeks – 5 hours/wk; 20 credits; Class size: 65
  • Aims: Students must
    1. Possess a clear understanding of the history and development of contemporary energy problems,
    2. Be knowledgeable about a range of people-based solutions to energy problems currently being tried and tested around the world,
    3. Understand the basic principles of theories of social and technical change, and be able to critically apply them to contemporary energy problems and solutions,
    4. Be able to produce a detailed proposal for a people-based solution to energy problems, and
    5. Be able to work effectively in a team to develop a people-based solution to energy problems.
  • Topics addressed:
    1. Rise of energy intensive society,
    2. Current energy problems (mostly UK focus – e.g. energy security, affordability and sustainability),
    3. Future energy scenarios – methods and approaches,
    4. Distinct theories of sociotechnical change – including behaviour change, practice theory, diffusion of innovations, transitions theories etc., and
    5. A range of contemporary ‘solutions’ e.g. energy feedback, smart homes, demand response, energy efficiency, community energy, citizen engagement etc.
  • Novel approach: engaging students in making short films (example: www.youtube.com/channel/UC-e3pJp04UuwCNCbbXhER2Q/videos; use of ‘Dragons Den’ format to provide formative feedback to students; ‘Theoretical Blind Date’ – a semi-improvised comedy performance to introduce students to different theoretical approaches. A trailer for this performance: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dD5ODZqykNI and highlights from the first performance: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qmjyHIXOts
  • Student evaluation:
    1. Participation in a series of class debates,
    2. Devising a ‘people-based’ solution to contemporary energy problems,
    3. Giving a ‘Dragons Den’ presentation on their proposed solution,
    4. Making a short film to ‘advertise’ their solution, and
    5. Writing an essay that critically analyses their proposed solution drawing on the theoretical ideas discussed in the module.
  • Course evaluation: student feedback is extremely positive, with much appreciation for the exciting and fresh format; students particular enjoy the film-making coursework (described by one as simply: “The. Best. Coursework. Ever”). The more performative aspects of the module (such as theoretical blind date and dragons den) are also well-liked.
  • Course materials needed: while reading materials are available, the module lacks a single textbook that brings all of the different approaches to ‘energy and people’ together into a single place.