“Sustainable Consumption”, University of East Anglia

  • Lecturers: Gill Seyfang
  • Program: MSc Environmental Sciences
  • Duration: 12 weeks, 2 1-hour lectures and 1 3-hour seminar per week
  • Class size: 30
  • Focus: strong emphasis on understanding different theoretical approaches to understanding sustainable consumption, applying these theories to the critical analysis of different initiatives, and developing theoretically informed strategies for promoting sustainable consumption. An emphasis is also placed on communication skills, development of critical thinking and team-work.
  • Approach: lectures introduce theories and concepts, while student-run workshops aim to further develop topics while developing communication and team-work skills.
  • Key texts used: Seyfang, G. (2008). The New Economics of Sustainable Consumption: The Seeds of Change. New York, Palgrave Macmillan; Jackson, T., Ed. (2006). The Earthscan Reader in Sustainable Consumption. London, Earthscan; Shwom, R. and Lorenzen,J.(2012 ‘Changing household consumption to address climate change: social scientific insights and challenges’ WIREs Climate Change Vol 3 pp. 379-395
  • Novel approaches:
    1. Theoretical Theatre, why academics disagree: a comedy improvisation performance where teaching staff enact various characters in an entertaining manner, so as to better engage students around competing theoretical perspectives. The goal is for students to recognize fundamental differences in understanding the social world, drawing from theories that can not be uncritically added together, bur rather (often) disagree with each other in fundamental ways. Format: 50 minute semi-improvised piece, which involves impersonating competing theories. In collaboration with Jeppe Graugaard, Tom Hargreaves, Noel Longhurst and Irene Lorenzoni. Short video available at: vimeo.com/60264173.
    2. The use of a Facebook group, as a participative method, to record discussions and reflect critically on course material.
  • Student evaluation: summative assessment is through course work (4,000 word case study); formative assessment from tutors and peers from participation in the seminars and a coursework ‘feed forward’ session (i.e., feedback session on the chosen case study); and participation in the class Facebook page, to reflect on learning throughout the module.
  • Course evaluation: very positive, particularly the Theoretical Theatre.
  • Received UAE Excellence in Teaching award