• Class Number 9730
  • Term Code 3060
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Chris Browne
    • Chris Browne
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 27/07/2020
  • Class End Date 30/10/2020
  • Census Date 31/08/2020
  • Last Date to Enrol 03/08/2020
SELT Survey Results

'Universities serve to make students think: to resolve problems by argument supported by evidence; not to be dismayed by complexity, but bold in unravelling it'.  (What are universities for? by Geoffrey Boulton and Colin Lucas).   This course takes up this challenge by offering latter year students from any part of the ANU the opportunity to explore a series of complex issues. The connections between economic, historical, social, legal, scientific, engineering and environmental and moral dimensions of complex problems will be explored.    

The course will examine the behaviour of complex problems.  Case studies will include the collapse of empires, contemporary development, health and environmental issues, engineering and network failures and the moral and legal dimensions of all these issues.  

The course will encourage students to share their existing disciplinary perspectives to develop deep understandings of how to go about effective team based approaches to unravelling complex issues.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

    • Identify and generalise archetypical behaviours in complex problems
    • Provide and situate disciplinary perspectives and methodologies in an interdisciplinary team
    • Analyse and construct arguments from multiple perspectives, supported by evidence and with intellectual independence
    • Reflect critically on theory from the course by connecting personal experiences and/or real-world situations
    • Design, research and defend a learning portfolio unravelling a complex problem

    Research-Led Teaching

    Unravelling Complexity brings in leading ANU researchers from all Colleges at ANU, and places an emphasis on the Integration and Implementation Sciences in the course delivery.

    Examination Material or equipment

    This course does not use examinations.

    Complexity is a fascinating area of study. Many students find that you start seeing complexity everywhere. There is no prescribed textbook for this course. You should be able to complete this course using the materials and selected readings made available through the Wattle.

    • Bammer, Gabriele and Michael Smithson, 2008, Uncertainty and risk: multidisciplinary perspectives, Earthscan Recommended: Chapters 2 and 26
    • Bar-Yam, Yaneer, 2004, Making things work: solving complex problems in a complex world, NECSI Knowledge Press Recommended: Overview, Chapter 1 and conclusion
    • Brown, Valerie A., John A. Harris, Jacqueline Y Russell, 2010, Tackling wicked problems through the transdisciplinary imagination, Earthscan Recommended: Chapters 1 and 2
    • Harris, Graham, 2007, Seeking sustainability in an age of complexity, Cambridge University Press Recommended: Preamble, chapters 1 and 2
    • Mitchell, Melanie, 2009 Complexity a guided tour, Oxford University Press Recommended: Preface, chapter 1
    • Lineweaver, Charley, 2013, Complexity and the Arrow of Time.

    Staff Feedback

    Feedback is a widely misunderstood concept in education. I see feedback as a systems process that drives behaviour (formative feedback), rather than being the result of assessed work (summative feedback). In this course, there are many formal and informal processes to collect formative feedback to help submit the best work you can. These include regular opportunities with teaching staff for specific feedback, and most assessment items are staged so that you can receive feedback as you go. You should also make the most of informal feedback, such as through other members of your group and former students. When marks are returned, they will be accompanied with minimal summative feedback to justify the mark. You are welcome to ask your marker for more feedback if you would like or need. 

    Student Feedback

    ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

    Class Schedule

    Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
    1 Course Introduction No tutorials
    2 Guest seminar and tutorials Tutor-led tutorial
    3 Guest seminar and tutorials Student-led tutorial facilitations
    4 Guest seminar and tutorials Student-led tutorial facilitations
    5 Guest seminar and tutorials Student-led tutorial facilitations
    6 Guest seminar and tutorials Student-led tutorial facilitations
    7 Guest seminar and tutorials Student-led tutorial facilitations
    8 Guest seminar and tutorials Student-led tutorial facilitations
    9 Guest seminar and tutorials Student-led tutorial facilitations
    10 Guest seminar and tutorials Group project tutorial
    11 Group Project workshop Group project tutorial
    12 Course wrap-up Individual Portfolio

    Tutorial Registration

    Tutorials will be open for registration via Wattle during the first week of class

    Assessment Summary

    Assessment task Value Learning Outcomes
    Tutorial Co-facilitation and Complexity Primer 30 % 1,2,4
    Interdisciplinary Group Project 20 % 2,4
    Learning Portfolio 50 % 1,2,3,5

    * If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


    ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

    Assessment Requirements

    The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Integrity . In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

    Moderation of Assessment

    Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


    It is expected that you will attend all classes. Classes - especially the ones run by your peers - are VERY difficult with low attendance, so please ensure that you can attend throughout the semester. 


    There are no examinations in this course.

    Assessment Task 1

    Value: 30 %
    Learning Outcomes: 1,2,4

    Tutorial Co-facilitation and Complexity Primer

    Co-facilitate a Tutorial for your peers on a given topic throughout semester including developing a Secret Plan, and provide a shareable contribution to the Complexity Primer. Indicative topics can be found on the VC's Courses public website.

    Due Date: Weeks 3-9

    Value: Tutorial Co-Facilitation and Secret Plan (15%, group); Complexity Primer (15%, individual)

    Assessment Task 2

    Value: 20 %
    Learning Outcomes: 2,4

    Interdisciplinary Group Project

    Present an idea on how we should resolve (not solve!) a complex problem. Ideas will be pitched during Week 11. This task is intentionally short, and the focus is on collaboratively applying course concepts to a contemporary problem.

    Due date: Weeks 10-11

    Value: (20%, group)

    Assessment Task 3

    Value: 50 %
    Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,5

    Learning Portfolio

    Produce a major work that connects your experience in the course and the course themes to a contemporary complex problem. Many students choose to examine a problem relevant to their discipline/s. The design prompt for this task is to generate a critical or creative piece that can be consumed in 10 minutes: let your imagination run wild! We'll have an opportunity to informally share our ideas in the final week, and an optional drafting process will be available to provide formative feedback.

    Due date: Weeks 11-12

    Value: (50%, Individual)

    Academic Integrity

    Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

    The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

    The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

    Online Submission

    Students are bound to the Code of Practice for Student Academic Integrity. This includes provisions and directions on issues such as academic integrity, plagiarism and academic misconduct. All students should be familiar with the Code. 

    You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) as submission must be through Turnitin.

    Hardcopy Submission

    For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

    Late Submission

    Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. (A complex problem?)

    Referencing Requirements

    Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

    Returning Assignments

    Most assessment tasks will be returned the following week. Grades for the final task will be withheld until the release of results.

    Extensions and Penalties

    Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

    Resubmission of Assignments

    If you are in a position where you need to resubmit an assignment, please contact your course convenor.

    Privacy Notice

    The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
    In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
    If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

    Distribution of grades policy

    Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

    Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

    Support for students

    The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

    Chris Browne
    6125 2388

    Research Interests

    Socio-technical systems, systems engineering, complex systems, interdisciplinary studies, education

    Chris Browne

    By Appointment
    Chris Browne
    6125 9841

    Research Interests

    Chris Browne

    By Appointment

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