• Class Number 6092
  • Term Code 3360
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Lorrae Van Kerkhoff
    • Dr Craig Ashhurst
    • Dr Elizabeth Clarke
    • Dr Joseph Guillaume
    • Prof Lorrae Van Kerkhoff
    • Carla Alexandra
    • Pele Cannon
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 24/07/2023
  • Class End Date 27/10/2023
  • Census Date 31/08/2023
  • Last Date to Enrol 31/07/2023
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 this course, 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). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

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 1Introduction: thinking about complex problems
2 Weeks 2-3Case 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 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.
Learning portfolio #1:Group work: the completed problem statement template, including analysis and suggested solutions.Individual work: short reflection on the comparison between your group's problem statement and suggested solutions and that of the other group you were paired with.
3 Weeks 4-6Case study 2: First Nations Water Sovereignty in a post-Native Title world
The second case study draws upon an ongoing process of engagement led by the ANU First Nations Portfolio (FNP) to support and facilitate dialogue and action towards greater water sovereignty for Indigenous peoples across Australia. Provided materials and presentations will outline the challenges of moving towards greater access to water for cultural and economic benefits. Students will be required to write an essay that aims to synthesise different perspectives to grow understanding and advance our thinking on these complex challenges.The essay question is under development with the FNP. The top three essays will be shared with the FNP and connected First Nations leaders to support this program of work.
Learning portfolio #2:Individual work: Essay responding to the question posed by the FNP and connected First Nations leadersIndividual work: short personal reflection on the case study.
4 Weeks 6/7-12Designing projects for complex problems - transdisciplinary project proposal.Led by Dr Liz Clarke
The workshop sessions after the mid-semester break will provide an opportunity for postgraduates to develop a project proposal to address a complex environmental problem of their choice. It may be in a research or non-research context. We explore the transdisciplinary tools that can be applied in tackling complex environmental problems, and look at ways projects can be designed to engage pro-actively with diverse stakeholders and complex issues.
Learning Portfolio #3: Individual work: Transdisciplinary project proposal. Your project design proposal is essentially a scoping document that contains the key elements of a project, with a focus on initial steps and an overall conceptual design for how the initial steps are intended to lead to the project outcomes and social-environmental change. 

Tutorial Registration


Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Learning portfolio #1: Problem framing and ANU Below Zero 15 % 18/08/2023 01/09/2023 1,2
Learning Portfolio #2 : First Nations Water Sovereignty Essay 35 % 08/09/2023 27/09/2023 2,4,5,6
Transdisciplinary project proposal 40 % 27/10/2023 17/11/2023 1,3,4,5,6
Transdisciplinary project proposal reflection 10 % 27/10/2023 17/11/2023 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 Integrity 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 Skills website. 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: 18/08/2023
Return of Assessment: 01/09/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1,2

Learning portfolio #1: Problem framing and ANU Below Zero

15% of course total

The learning portfolio includes a 'project output' and a personal reflection on the process of developing that output.



  • 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 Beyond Zero goals.

You will work in groups to apply problem framing tools, engage in interdisciplinary conversations and create a problem statement for the complex challenge of achieving carbon neutrality at ANU by 2025.

Your task: Learning portfolio #1

Your learning portfolio #1 has two components:

a. Group work project output - 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. (700 words, 70% of total mark)

b. Individual work personal reflection - Following the guidelines for reflections, write a short reflection for case study 1 that answers the following guiding questions:

  1. Did the way you understood the problem of achieving carbon neutrality change over the course of the case study? if so, how? why? if not, why not?;
  2. 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?)

Word limit = 300 words, excluding any references, 30% of total assignment mark

See Wattle for assessment criteria.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 35 %
Due Date: 08/09/2023
Return of Assessment: 27/09/2023
Learning Outcomes: 2,4,5,6

Learning Portfolio #2 : First Nations Water Sovereignty Essay

35% of course total

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 water sovereignty for Indigenous Australians, in collaboration with the ANU First Nations Portfolio (FNP), focusing on a topic of the FNP's choice.

During the first week we will be 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 feature FNP guests who will present their ideas, expertise and experiences relating to the challenges of achieving effective access to water resources for economic and cultural benefits. 


Individual work project output: 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). Harvard referencing system. Single spaced, PDF Document submitted via Turnitin.

Worth 30 of 35 marks (86% of total assignment mark).

Individual work: personal 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 (word limit = 450 words, excluding references) 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 situated within a complex, contested and multi-cultural setting, how did you feel about seeking to answer this question from your own cultural background and social position?

Worth 5 of 35 marks (14% of total assignment mark).

Assessment Task 3

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 27/10/2023
Return of Assessment: 17/11/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1,3,4,5,6

Transdisciplinary project proposal

40% of course total

3000 words

The workshop sessions after the mid-semester break will provide an opportunity for postgraduates to develop a ‘project design’ proposal for application of the tools and approaches presented to address a complex environmental problem. Students may choose to design their project around the Water Futures in the Murray Darling Basin case study (the topic of focus for undergraduates) however graduate students are also free to choose their own topic. Students will present aspects of their work as their project and approach evolves. 

Your transdisciplinary project design proposal incorporates key elements of the second part of the course (i.e. weeks 7-12 after the mid-semester break). Your project design proposal is essentially a scoping document that contains the key elements of a project, with a focus on initial steps and an overall conceptual design for how these initial steps are intended to lead to the project outcomes and socio-environmental change. 

More detailed requirements and assessment criteria are available on Wattle.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 27/10/2023
Return of Assessment: 17/11/2023
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Transdisciplinary project proposal reflection

10% of course total

Word limit 1000 words

Revisit the notes you have taken through weeks 7-12 in relation to lectures, readings and workshops.

Reflect upon how you have responded to feedback and material covered in the workshops. Possible questions you may consider include:

1.      To what extent did the workshops and lectures assist you with unravelling and addressing the complexity associated with your topic?

2.      How might designing a transdisciplinary project proposal addressing a complex environmental problem differ from a more conventional research or practical project?

3.      Features of complex problems such as emergence and uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility can be challenging in a linear project. Did the tools provided help you to integrate these features into your design?

4.      What were the biggest challenges in designing a project? Does the task of writing a project proposal help you understand the strengths and limitations of project-based work in tackling complex environmental problems? If so, how? 

 Assessment criteria available on Wattle.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

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

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

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).

Prof Lorrae Van Kerkhoff

Research Interests

Sustainability; Complex problems; Transdisciplinary Research Methods; Knowledge systems; Futures; Water Governance

Prof Lorrae Van Kerkhoff

By Appointment
Dr Craig Ashhurst

Research Interests

Dr Craig Ashhurst

Dr Elizabeth Clarke

Research Interests

Sustainability; Complex problems; Transdisciplinary Research Methods; Knowledge systems; Futures; Water Governance

Dr Elizabeth Clarke

Dr Joseph Guillaume

Research Interests

Sustainability; Complex problems; Transdisciplinary Research Methods; Knowledge systems; Futures; Water Governance

Dr Joseph Guillaume

Prof Lorrae Van Kerkhoff

Research Interests

Prof Lorrae Van Kerkhoff

By Appointment
Carla Alexandra

Research Interests

Sustainability; Complex problems; Transdisciplinary Research Methods; Knowledge systems; Futures; Water Governance

Carla Alexandra

Pele Cannon

Research Interests

Pele Cannon


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