• Class Number 7251
  • Term Code 3160
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Chris Browne
    • Chris Browne
  • 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

Unravelling Complexity is open to students from all academic Colleges. 

'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?, Boulton and Lucas, 2008).  

Unravelling Complexity takes up this challenge by encouraging students from any part of the ANU the opportunity to explore the nature of complex issues, with a focus on drawing connections between disciplines and dimensions of complex problems. ANU researchers will provide insights into the behaviour of complexity by using a broad range of concepts from the social, natural and design sciences and teams from the interdisciplinary ANU Grand Challenges research initiative will provide insights on contemporary complex problems. The course encourages students to build on their existing disciplinary perspectives to develop a broad understanding of effective collaborative approaches to unravelling complex issues.

This courses is co-taught with undergraduate students, but postgraduate students will be assessed separately.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Identify and generalise behaviours in complex problems
  2. Analyse and construct arguments from multiple perspectives, supported by evidence and with intellectual independence
  3. Reflect critically on concepts from the course in relation to contemporary complex problems
  4. Situate and guide disciplinary perspectives and methodologies in an interdisciplinary team
  5. Design, research and defend an extended major work unravelling a complex problem

Research-Led Teaching

Unravelling Complexity brings in leading ANU researchers from all Colleges at ANU, and places an emphasis on topics broadly defined in the Complexity Sciences and 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

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 examining the work of 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 Week 1: Introduction to Complexity No workshop
2 Week 2: Working Together; What Are Universities For? Tutor-led workshop
3 Weeks 3-8: Useful Ways of Thinking about Complexity – guest seminars Student-led workshop facilitations
4 Weeks 9-12: Grand Challenges Project and Portfolio work

Tutorial Registration

Workshops will have an in-person and remote option in most weeks.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Learning Outcomes
Workshop Co-facilitation and Complexity Primer 30 % 1,2,4
Interdisciplinary Group Project 20 % 2,4
Learning Portfolio & Presentation 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

Workshop Co-facilitation and Complexity Primer

Co-facilitate a Workshop 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 3-6, 8-9

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

Assessment Task 2

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 2,4

Interdisciplinary Group Project

Present an idea on how we should resolve (not solve!) a 'Grand Challenge'. 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.

Milestones: Group formation in Week 7, Project Pitches delivered in Week 11.

Value: (20%, group activity)

Assessment Task 3

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

Learning Portfolio & Presentation

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 artefact that can be consumed in 10 minutes. Let your imagination run wild! An optional Portfolio Plan can be submitted to provide formative feedback.

Postgraduate students will be required to complete a 3-minute presentation during Week 12 sharing their portfolio.

Milestones: Weekly reflections via Wattle. Plan (optional) in Week 8. Final due Week 12

Value: (40% Portfolio, 10% Presentation, 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.

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 portfolio 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, complex systems, interdisciplinary studies, education

Chris Browne

By Appointment
Chris Browne
6125 2388

Research Interests

Chris Browne

By Appointment

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