• Class Number 4147
  • Term Code 3230
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Topic Online
  • Mode of Delivery Online
    • Prof Sharon Bessell
    • Prof Sharon Bessell
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 21/02/2022
  • Class End Date 27/05/2022
  • Census Date 31/03/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 28/02/2022
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. 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 any topics on which you plan to use for your assessment tasks). The more lectures you listen to, the better prepared you will be to engage in class discussions and activities, and the more you will gain from the course. 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, but key readings will be available on our Wattle site.

Most topics have two or more readings. It is not compulsory that you read every article - but the more you read, the more you will gain from the course. Ideally, you should go beyond the readings provided - particularly for your assessment tasks - and explore the literature more broadly. 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 22 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? RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE
2 Tuesday 1 March The Origins of Development Thinking - Modernisation Theory and Dependency Theory In this session, we rewind back half a century from the adoption of the SDGs, in order to understand the origins of development thinking. We explore the theories that dominated early themes of development - we consider if, and how, their influence can still be felt today. We focus our attention on two early, and highly influential, theories: Modernisation Theory and (in stark contrast) Dependency Theory. RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE
3 Tuesday 8 March: From Modernisation to Liberation to Orthodoxy: The rise of participatory development In this session, we explore ideas that emerged from the 1970s of development as ‘liberation’, ‘people-centred development’, and the now highly influential participatory development. We examine how these ideas were incorporated into the ‘mainstream’ development agenda. We also begin to think about the SDGs in the context of participatory development - and explore the process of developing the SDGs and the extent to which ideas of participation are incorporated into the SDGs. RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE
4 Tuesday 15 March From Basic Needs to Structural Adjustment In this session, we explore the concept of basic needs, which emerged in the 1970s with the aim of addressing deep and ongoing poverty in many countries of the Global South. We then explore how and why there was a shift way from basic needs approaches to the structural adjustment programs and policies (SAPs) that reshaped the Global South, and deepened the poverty of many. We examine the drivers of structural adjustment and explore the long-lasting implications. RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE
5 Monday 22 March The 'Women in Development' Agenda and the rise of microfinance In this session, we examine early thinking about the role of women in development. We focus on microfinance as a case study of efforts to effectively incorporate women into development. RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE
6 Tuesday 29 March The Capability Approach, Human Rights, and Human Development In this session, we explore three related - but distinct - schools of thought: the capability approach, human rights, and human development. We ask what each contributes to both the theory and practice of development, and explore their similarities and points of difference. We ask if and how these ideas have permeated through the SDGs. RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE
7 Tuesday 19 April Neoliberalism: Rolling Back the State; Rolling Out the (Conditional) State In this session we explore the ways in which neoliberal thinking has shaped development. We examine the emergence of neoliberalism from its rise from the late 1970s to today - tracing the ways in which the State was initially rolled back from development, and then reinstated with very specific roles. We then examine the nature of 21st Century Capitalism and the implications for development. RECORDINGS AND READINGS ARE AVAILABLE ON OUR COURSE WATTLE SITE
8 Tuesday 26 April Gender and Intersectionality We return to our earlier discussion of women in development, but now consider the rise of the 'Gender and Development' agenda and the influence of theories around intersectionality. We examine the emergence of violence against women as a priority issue for some development agencies and actors. We analyse SDG5 and consider if and how gender considerations have been incorporated into other goals.
9 Tuesday 3 May Governance - local and global In this session, we examine theories that seek to explain how governance and institutions shape the development of nations. We ask what makes governance 'good' - unpacking the concept of good governance and asking for whom various types of governance are 'good.' We also explore ideas around global governance and ask how key aspects of global governance foster or undermine development. We examine post-colonial critiques of global governance.
10 Tuesday 10 May The rise of conditional cash transfers In this session we focus on a case study of conditional cash transfers (CCTs). We examine their promise, success and shortcomings and ask how some of the themes and theories we have discussed to date have shaped thinking and practice around the role of CCTs. In doing so we explore often contradictory ideas around social protection, human rights, and conditionality.
11 Tuesday 17 Sustainability and development In this session, we explore the concept of sustainability and examine how it has shaped the current development agenda. We ask what sustainability means, and who shapes the agenda. We examine the opportunities and barriers to sustainable development, taking account of ongoing debates around its meaning.
12 Tuesday 24 May Assessing the SDG Agenda In this final session, we return to consideration of the SDG agenda, exploring which of the theories and themes we have explored during the course have been influential, we consider the framing of the SDGs and ask what is missing. We analyse the potential of the SDGs to address development challenges in an era of climate emergency, entrenched inequality, and global pandemic.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Video Presentation 20 % 15/03/2022 * 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Review Paper 30 % 19/04/2022 * 2, 3, 4, 5
Research paper 50 % 30/05/2022 30/06/2022 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.


This course does not include a formal examination.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 15/03/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Video Presentation

The first assessment task is a video presentation of up to 10 minutes, analysing 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 and due date are available on our course Wattle site

Assessment Task 2

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 19/04/2022
Learning Outcomes: 2, 3, 4, 5

Review Paper

The second task is a review paper, which will help you to develop your ideas for your research paper.

Your review paper will take the form of a briefing note, designed to introduce your reader to the key debates around a particular development theory or theme.

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 and due date are available on our course Wattle site

Assessment Task 3

Value: 50 %
Due Date: 30/05/2022
Return of Assessment: 30/06/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Research paper

Your final assessment task is a research paper, that enables you to explore a development theme or theory in detail.

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
02 6125 6562

Research Interests

Sharon’s research interests revolve around issues of social justice and human rights, focusing on two broad areas. The first is social policy, social justice and the human rights of children. The second is the gendered and generational dimensions of poverty, with a focus on qualitative and innovative research to disrupt disadvantage, reveal structural barriers, and respond to and value local contexts.  

Prof Sharon Bessell

By Appointment
Prof Sharon Bessell
02 6125 6562

Research Interests

Prof Sharon Bessell

By Appointment

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