• Class Number 6432
  • Term Code 3160
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Bruce Doran
    • Prof Lorrae Van Kerkhoff
    • Dr Carina Wyborn
    • Dr Joseph Guillaume
    • Prof Lorrae Van Kerkhoff
    • Chitresh Saraswat
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 26/07/2021
  • Class End Date 29/10/2021
  • Census Date 14/09/2021
  • Last Date to Enrol 02/08/2021
SELT Survey Results

 This course uses three case studies to develop a multi-faceted, research-based understanding of complex environmental problems that graduating students can apply in future research or work environments. The course emphasises integrative, engaged, and research-based approaches to complexity. The first two cases present complex local and national issues in collaboration with key stakeholders. Students engage with these issues by drawing on a range of theoretical concepts and practical tools. The learning from these cases is then applied to a developing a research project proposal. The focus throughout is on case studies as vehicles for learning and reflection, as well as a testing ground for tools, techniques and approaches discussed in the course.   


Note: Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates but are assessed separately. During the second part of the course graduate students attend specialist case-based tutorials with peers.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Understand and engage with the methodological and practical challenges posed by complex environmental problems.
  2. Critically evaluate the complex nature of environmental problems.
  3. Apply higher-level problem solving skills in environmental studies and environmental science, including problem framing, social learning and critical reflection.
  4. Create innovative, collaborative research-based responses to complex environmental problems.
  5. Understand and apply effective stakeholder engagement practices within a case-based framework.
  6. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the case study approach as a means of addressing complexity.

Research-Led Teaching

Students are engaged and active researchers throughout thiscourse, developing the skills to apply research skills to complex, multi-faceted problems.

Recommended student system requirements 

ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:

  • video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
  • two-way video conferencing for interactive learning
  • email and other messaging tools for communication
  • interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
  • print and photo/scan for handwritten work
  • home-based assessment.

To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:

  • A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
  • Webcam
  • Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
  • Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
  • Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
  • Printing, and photo/scanning equipment

For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • Written comments related to each of the assessment criteria.

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.

Other Information

Postgraduate students will attend the same timetabled classes as the undergraduate cohort until the mid-semester teaching break. The tutorial sessions after the mid-semester break will provide an opportunity for postgraduates to develop a research agenda to address a complex environmental problem. These classes will be held independently to the undergraduate cohort workshops.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 The following provides a broad summary of the activities undertaken in the course. A week by week outline of events is available on the course Wattle site. Week 1 Introduction: thinking about complex problems
2 Weeks 2-3 Case study 1: Problem Framing - ANU Below Zero Your first case study aims to develop awareness of the importance of problem framing and stakeholder analysis as first steps in understanding a complex environmental problem. You will work in online groups to apply problem framing tools, engage in interdisciplinary conversations and create a problem statement for the complex challenge of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025.
3 Weeks 4-6 Case study 2: Synthesis - Yawuru natural resource management in a post-Native Title world The second case study draws upon an ongoing partnership between the ANU and the Yawuru community, the traditional owners of the country in and around Broome, Western Australia. In this case study, we will explore some of the key challenges and opportunities that are associated with Native Title, with a specific focus on the intersection of cultural values and the pastoral industry. How can we synrthesise across different perspectives to understand and engage with the challenges here? Can we really solve complex problems? Students will be required to write an essay that seeks to synthesise different views to grow understanding and advancing our thinking on these complex challenges.
4 Weeks 6/7-12 Researching complex problems - research project proposal. The workshop sessions after the mid-semester break will provide an opportunity for postgraduates to develop a research proposal to address a complex environmental problem of their choice. We explore the role of research in tackling complex environmental problems, and look at ways research can be done to engage pro-actively with diverse stakeholders and complex issues.

Tutorial Registration


Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
Learning portfolio #1: Problem framing and ANU Below Zero 15 % 21/08/2021 1,2
Learning Portfolio #2 : Yawuru Essay 35 % 12/09/2021 2,4,5,6
Research project proposal 40 % 04/09/2020 1,3,4,5,6
Research project proposal reflection 10 % 29/10/2021 1,2,3

* 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.



Assessment Task 1

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 21/08/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1,2

Learning portfolio #1: Problem framing and ANU Below Zero

The learning portfolio is a flexible tool that engages students in a process of continuous reflection and collaboration focused on selective evidence of learning. As written text, electronic display, or other creative project, the portfolio captures the scope, richness, and relevance of students’ intellectual development and academic skills. The portfolio provides a critical opportunity for purposeful, mentored reflections and analysis of evidence for both improvement and assessment of students’ learning.

Your learning portfolio is a collection of Evidence developed throughout the course that is engaged with through peer and mentor collaboration and individual reflection, and consolidates and demonstrates Learning. The aim of this assignment is to facilitate and document your learning as you progress through your DIY Case Study. It places your group work in the context of your individual learning. Your learning portfolio has two types of components: Evidence of work and Evidence of learning. These must relate to each other.


Aims :

  • Build students’ skills and abilities in identifying and applying problem framing techniques, and analysing diversity in problem frames.
  • Build an understanding and self-awareness of each student’s individual perspective and way of approaching a complex environmental problem, including both its strengths and limitations, in the context of consultation
  • Offer meaningful and useful contributions to ANU on achieving Below Zero goals.

The ANU has declared that it will be carbon neutral by 2025.

In class, in teams of 4 or 5, you will hold an online ‘kitchen table’ discussion to brainstorm ideas that address the question:

Is reducing carbon emissions a problem at ANU? and if so, how, for whom, when and where? On the basis of this problem statement, groups will identify three suggested solutions. They will then compare their template with that of one other group, and identify and discuss similarities and differences.

Your task: Learning portfolio part 1

Start your learning portfolio with two components:

a. Group work - students will be required to work in an online group to complete a problem statement template (template is provided) that outlines their answers to the above questions and documents their proposed solutions. This is included in the learning portfolio.

b. Individual work - Following the guidelines for reflections, write a short reflection for case study 1 (word limit = 750 words, excluding any references) that answers the following guiding questions: Did the 'kitchen table' exercise inform your approach to the template? how?; The case study was developed to demonstrate framing as a tool for revealing diverse ways of seeing a problem when it is ambiguous and open to interpretation. Do you think was achieved? (Why? / Why not?); Based on this experience, why is it important to consider problem framing when examining complex problems? Do you have any other lessons or insights from the case study?

See Wattle for assessment criteria.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 35 %
Due Date: 12/09/2021
Learning Outcomes: 2,4,5,6

Learning Portfolio #2 : Yawuru Essay

The primary purpose of this three week case is to learn that the complexity of issues can arise from the presence of diverse perspectives, and how to formulate an argument that synthesises across these diverse views. To do this we will examine a complex environmental problem in a post native title, Australian Indigenous context. We will be investigating the issue of land management on Yawuru country, focusing on a topic of the community's choice.

The Yawuru people are the traditional owners of the area in and around the town of Broome, Western Australia (see Taylor et al., 2014 for important background reading on this case). During the first week we will be forming online working groups for the case, covering background material and evaluating different sources of information. You will also prepare a set of questions for a key stakeholder engagement workshop in week two of the case study. The stakeholder workshop will be run in an online format with Yawuru guests. 


Individual work: Essay

One of the key challenges with this case is to synthesize information from different sources as you build arguments in response to the essay question. There are a number of primary and secondary sources of information that you can use.

Essay question: will be provided in class.

Length and format: 2,000 words (excluding appendices). Worth 86% of the total mark (30 of 35 marks)

Harvard referencing system. Single spaced, PDF Document submitted via Turnitin.

Individual work: reflection

The aim of this case study was to learn how to formulate an argument about a complex issue that synthesises across a range of perspectives. Write a short reflection that demonstrates your learning from this case study. You can use the following questions as guides, or write in an open format:

1. In what ways did your essay demonstrate a synthesis across different perspectives?

2. Given this case study is limited in time, resources, and by the classroom setting, if you were able to engage with this topic in more depth, what would you choose to do? How would this enable you to synthesise across diverse perspectives?

Word limit = 450 words, excluding references. Worth 14% of the total mark (5 of 35 marks)

See Wattle for assessment criteria.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 04/09/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1,3,4,5,6

Research project proposal

The workshop sessions after the mid-semester break will provide an opportunity for postgraduates to develop a research proposal to address a complex environmental problem. Students will present aspects of their work as their project and approach evolves. This is an individual assignment.

Research project proposal

Word length = 3000 words. Worth 40%

Your research project proposal is an item of assessment that pulls together key elements of second part of the course (i.e. weeks 7-12 after the mid-semester break). Your research project proposal is essentially a scoping document that contains the key elements of a larger project (see the diagram below showing the “big” picture view of a research project)

Key elements:


This is a relatively short outline of your proposal. It is designed to summarize your thinking about your chosen topic and provide context for the literature review and research design.

Review of relevant literature:

This needs to be an information-dense and critical engagement with material relevant to your project;

You need to build a strong justification for your proposed research which draws upon key logic and readings for the course (e.g. Bardwell,1991) and sources you have identified through the workshops.

Research design (including proposed methods and data collection process):

Your research design is a concise description of how you would conduct your research project if it were to proceed.


This is the concluding section of your proposal, presenting a summary of key arguments and a justification for proceeding to a full project.

Appendix (optional – not included in word count):

This contains relevant supporting information

Assessment criteria available on Wattle.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 29/10/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Research project proposal reflection

Word limit = 1000 words, worth 10%

·        Revisit the notes you have taken in relation to each workshop (e.g. readings, in-class discussions with lecturers and fellow students, debrief notes you may have taken outside of class) 

·        Reflect upon how you have responded to feedback and material covered in the workshops;

·        To what extent did the workshops and lectures assist you with unravelling and addressing the complexity associated with your topic? What are the strengths and limitations of research-based knowledge in addressing complex environmental problems?

 Assessment criteria available on Wattle.

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

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) 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 permitted. 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. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

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

Via the course Wattle site.

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

Resubmission of assignments is not permitted.

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).

Dr Bruce Doran

Research Interests

Dr Bruce Doran

Prof Lorrae Van Kerkhoff

Research Interests

Sociological Methodology And Research Methods, Sociology And Social Studies Of Science And Technology

Prof Lorrae Van Kerkhoff

By Appointment
Dr Carina Wyborn

Research Interests

Dr Carina Wyborn

Dr Joseph Guillaume

Research Interests

Dr Joseph Guillaume

Prof Lorrae Van Kerkhoff

Research Interests

Prof Lorrae Van Kerkhoff

By Appointment
Chitresh Saraswat

Research Interests

Chitresh Saraswat

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions