• Class Number 1639
  • Term Code 3120
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Topic On Campus
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Sharon Bessell
    • Prof Sharon Bessell
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 12/02/2021
  • Class End Date 30/04/2021
  • Census Date 12/03/2021
  • Last Date to Enrol 26/02/2021
SELT Survey Results

In 2015 over 150 world leaders agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals, as the global agenda to promote shared prosperity and well-being for all over the following 15 years. The SDGs quickly became synonymous with development, and now shape domestic and international development policies.. What theories, ideas and assumptions underpin the SDGs? Are they a departure from international efforts that came before? Do the 17 SDGs represent a genuine consensus on development, or do they mask ongoing deep divides?

The SDGs represent agreement on a global agenda to ‘promote prosperity while protecting the planet.’ Yet as poverty and inequality continue to plague the lives of much of the world's population, development often seems elusive. Despite the representation of the SDGs as a global consensus, the very concept of development remains contested.

This course critically examines some of the major themes that have shaped – and continue to shape – global development efforts. It places several of the themes represented in the SDGs under the spotlight, exploring their origins, the often contested ideas and theories that underpin them, and the ongoing debates. The course does not assume there is a single or a correct approach towards development. Rather, using the SDGs as a prism, it aims to explore and critically assess the ideas, values and assumptions that have shaped international development agendas.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Demonstrate a deep understanding of different, often competing, conceptualisations of ‘development’
  2. Have a sound knowledge of several major theories of international development
  3. Critically analyse the strengths and shortcomings of major theories
  4. Demonstrate a strong understanding of several themes that dominate the contemporary international development agenda
  5. Critically analyse the strengths and shortcomings of dominant themes

Research-Led Teaching

My own research revolves around issues of social justice, equality, and human rights; with a particular focus on development. My research focuses on three broad areas. First, social policy for children who are living in difficult circumstances; one of my current research projects focuses on multidimensional child poverty. The second area of focus is the gendered and generational nature of multidimensional poverty. Over the past thirteen years, I have led research on new approaches to assessing and responding to multidimensional poverty. You can find out more about our work at immp.crawford.anu.edu.au. The third are of focus is gender equality, and particularly women's political participation.

In all our sessions we will draw on cutting edge research to understand the complex issues we are discussion. In sessions on human rights, poverty and gender, I will share my own research.

Field Trips

No field trips

Additional Course Costs

No additional class costs

Examination Material or equipment


Required Resources

Recorded lectures

Recorded lectures for each topic discussed are on our Wattle site. This is an intensive course, and it is unlikely that you will have time to listen to every lecture. The lectures are provided as resources - you are expected to listen to at least one lecture for each topic and advised to listen to all lectures for topics that you are interested in (and certainly listen to all lectures for the topic of your assessment). There is information on the Wattle site to help you decide which lectures you are most interested in and to help you prioritise your listening.


There is no text book for Development Themes and Theories.

Most topics have two or more readings. The more you read, the more you will gain from the course. It is not compulsory that you read every article - and given the intensive nature of the course, it will not be possible for you to do so. The most important readings are marked with an asterisk on our Wattle site. Of course, if you do not do any reading, you will not gain maximum benefit from the class.

Videos and podcasts

There is an enormous range of excellent videos and podcasts available on the topics we will be discussing. Some of the most powerful or interesting are posted on our Wattle site as additional resources that you may wish to use. These may be especially helpful for your assessment tasks.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:
  • Written comments
  • Verbal comments
  • Feedback to the whole class, to groups, to individuals, focus groups

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 Friday 26 February From Modernisation to Sustainability: What is development? ‘Development’ is a commonly used, but highly contested term. In this first session, we begin to examine the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. We begin to explore three key questions: - What does development mean? - Who sets the development agenda? - How does the concept of development differ across cultures, geographic location, and time? We begin to discuss the key development actors, focusing on the role of the state. We also explore two early theories to development: Modernisation Theory and Dependency Theory, and ask how relevant they have been in shaping development thinking and how relevant they are today. RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE
2 Monday 1 March Market-led development In this session, we look at dominant development paradigms that focused on how the market can deliver 'economic development' in a rather narrow sense. We first examine early structural adjustment programs that were imposed on (so-called) ‘poorly performing’ countries from the late 1970s. SAPs signalled a shift way from state-led development to market-driven development. In this session, we place structural adjustment in its historical context and examine the key debates. We also explore how neo-liberal ideas have shaped the development agenda and ask whether we have moved beyond neo-liberalism (and if so, what is the new paradigm?). RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE
3 Friday 12 March People-centred development In this session, we explore how ideas of 'people-centred development' have evolved over time. We begin by examining concepts of ‘liberation’ and 'participatory development' that emerged in the 1970s - and discuss how the idea of 'participation has changed over time. We examine how these ideas were incorporated into the ‘mainstream’ development agenda, and how ideas of participation have shaped the SDGs. We look briefly at both basic needs and human rights-based approaches to development. Here we ask if and how concepts of human rights are reflected in the SDGs. We then turn our attention to the emergence of the concept of human development. In 1990 UNDP introduced the Human Development Index and commenced the annual publication of the Human Development Report. The concept of human development draws on the capabilities approach, developed by Amartya Sen, and also theorised by Martha Nussbaum and others. In this session, we introduce the theoretical underpinnings of ‘human development’ by exploring the capabilities approach. RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE
4 Monday 15 March Human Development and Gender and Development In this session, we pick up again on the concept of human development, continuing to explore the ideas that underpin it. We also critically assess the Human Development Index. We explore if and how ideas of human development are reflected in the SDGs. We then turn our attention to gender and development, examining the evolution of thinking about women, gender and development - and examining SDG5 (which aims to 'achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.') RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE
5 Friday 26 March Addressing Poverty and Inequality SDG1 calls for the end of poverty in all its forms everywhere, while SDG10 focused on reducing inequalities. The mainstream development agenda has not always prioritised addressing poverty (at least directly). In this session we explore the evolution of thinking about poverty - as a barrier to development, as a barrier to human development, and as a barrier to achieving human rights. We also discuss some of the debates around the need to address inequality. RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE
6 Monday 29 March Sustainable Development and the SDG Agenda In this our final session together, we explore the concept of sustainability - beginning with the establishment of the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1983 and tracing through to the Sustainable Development Goals. We also take some time to assess the SDGs, focusing on the ideas that are reflected in them, the ways they have shaped the global development agenda, and the impact of COVID-19 on their progress. RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Video Presentation 20 % 07/03/2021 14/03/2021 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Review Paper 30 % 06/04/2021 14/04/2021 2, 3, 4, 5
Essay 50 % 27/04/2020 * 1, 2, 3, 4, 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 ANU Online website Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

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.


There is no mark for attendance, but attendance (on-line or face-to-face) is expected and necessary to ensure you gain full benefit from the course.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 07/03/2021
Return of Assessment: 14/03/2021
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Video Presentation

Due 7 March at 11.55pm

Your video presentation is your analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities of the SDGs (or of selected goals). Your video presentation should be a maximum of 10 minutes in length (and at least 5 minutes)

Details are available on our course Wattle site

Assessment Task 2

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 06/04/2021
Return of Assessment: 14/04/2021
Learning Outcomes: 2, 3, 4, 5

Review Paper

Your review is due on Friday 6 April at 11.55pm.

The length of your review paper is 2000 words (not including the reference list) - plus or minus 10%

The review paper is worth 30% of your overall mark

Details are available on our course Wattle site

Assessment Task 3

Value: 50 %
Due Date: 27/04/2020
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


Your essay is due on Sunday 27 April at 11.55pm

Your essay should be 3,000 words (not including the reference list) - plus or minus 10%

Your essay is worth 50% of your overall mark

Details are available on our course Wattle site

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community 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 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 University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

The ANU uses 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. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.

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. 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.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure The Course Convener may grant extensions 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.

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).
Prof Sharon Bessell
6125 6562

Research Interests

Prof Sharon Bessell

By Appointment
Prof Sharon Bessell
6125 6562

Research Interests

Prof Sharon Bessell

By Appointment

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