Course Title: Challenges in Sustainability

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Challenges in Sustainability

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


315H Architecture & Design


Sem 1 2006,
Sem 2 2007,
Sem 2 2010,
Sem 2 2011,
Sem 2 2012,
Sem 2 2013


City Campus


320H Architecture & Urban Design


Sem 2 2014,
Sem 2 2015,
Sem 2 2016

Course Coordinator: Judy Rogers

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 3518

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 8.11.28

Course Coordinator Availability: by appointment

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities


Course Description

Challenges in Sustainability is made up of two on line modules: a ’core’ or theoretical module and a ’practice’ module. It is intended that the core module prepare you to engage with the practice module by providing exposure to diverse positions on sustainability. The practice module will require you to apply the core/theoretical understandings to specific topics and/or issues. After completion of both modules the course concludes with a consideration the relationship between theory and practice and the ways in which study of this course through the two modules has altered your understanding of sustainability.

The emphasis in the course is on exploration: exploring not only the many ways in which sustainability is understood but perhaps more importantly exploring the possibilities.


This module has as its starting point that sustainability and sustainable development are deeply contested concepts. The core module aims to expose you to varying definitions and approaches to sustainability and to consider and debate the ways in which these definitions are informed by different political and philosophical orientations along with divergent understandings about the environment. The ’core’ module becomes an area for conversing between these various views.

Practice Module

Part 2 of the course has the theme of introducing you to the practice of sustainability: your own practice and sustainability approaches in professional practice. The aim is for you to apply knowledge learnt in the Core module to examine critique and reflect on the practice of sustainability. It is only by exploring the assumptions, biases and limitations of existing approaches to practice that debates about sustainability can be moved forward to provide a foundation for a critically informed, constructive and reflexive approach to practice.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

At the conclusion of this course students will:

  •  understand that sustainability is a contested term with multiple meanings;
  •  be able to link the assumptions built into different visions of sustainability with social and political perspectives and arguments;
  •  have critically examined the consequences of such assumptions, visions and arguments;
  •  be able to discern positions of people in diverse situations and in relation to various practices;
  •  acquire critical analytical skills related to sustainability including its representations on the Web and through related internet online communication.
  •  be able to clearly articulate a personal position that recognises the limits and potential of alternative views;
  •  be able to make decisions on the basis of a personal and professional interpretation of sustainability both in their specific professional practice and in the wider context of their lives;
  •  be able to advocate for and lead changes related to sustainability

See above

Overview of Learning Activities

The course will begin by articulating your own position on sustainability. The exercise aims to provide a base from which you can evaluate your own learning in the course and from the outset values your opinions and knowledge about sustainability. The course begins by demonstrating and acknowledging that there are a diversity of ideas and views on sustainability.

We will then use various ways of explaining sustainability to assist you to make sense of your own position. This will be followed by an examination of how sustainability has been negotiated at the international level as sustainable development with a particular emphasis on the shifting priorities and agendas from Brundtland to Rio+10.

You will then be asked to interrogate your own and other understandings of sustainability within the context of wider reading. You will then take part in an on-line discussion/debate, which focuses on a question, an issue or a dilemma. You will have read a variety of different readings and in the on-line discussion they will be thinking about the question/issue in relation to what you have read. Through this exercise you will engage with key influencing/influential and challenging ideas about the meanings of and implications of various ideas about sustainability. In the process it is hoped that you will challenge your own and others preconceptions and begin to discern what informs the different definitions.

You will then reflect on their learning in the core to date(reading, on line discussions, summaries) and articulate the understandings that you will take with you to an examination of the practice module.

In the practice Module you will be introduced to some of the tools and techniques for thinking about and applying ‘sustainability in practice. You will also have the opportunity to consider the way in which sustainability is relevant to their own professional practice, how sustainability is currently understood and how these tools/techniques can be developed further. We will also consider an example of sustainability in practice.

A final reflective report will require you to link your learning in the practice and core module and consider the relationship between theory and practice and the ways in which study of this course through the two modules has altered your understanding of sustainability.

Overview of Learning Resources

Resources for study in this course will be made available on-line.

Overview of Assessment

Participation in on-line discussions 30%

You are required to spend up to four hours a week contributing to on-line discussions. Some of these discussions will take place with the whole class, others will be group discussions. You need to contribute to all on line discussions and to demonstrate that you have completed required reading and that you have carefully considered other people’s responses.

2. Workbook 70%

Your workbook will be made up of your responses to individual bi-weekly tasks based on required reading which will provide a basis for on line discussion with other students. These exercises are individual exercises and should be submitted in the on line journal. In these exercises you need to provide evidence that you have completed required reading by including a reference list. Individual exercises will be detailed in the activities folder.

Your workbook will conclude with a reflective summary of on line discussions. Rather than a transcript of discussions you will need to reflect on what you have learnt ie who was involved in the discussion, what were some of the issues raised, was agreement reached, how did ideas about sustainability differ in the discussion group, was your involvement useful? Ie what did you learn?

At a minimum your reflective summary will need to include the following:-

-A brief description of the discussions you have had.

-what were the issues raised and did you all agree? If not how did views differ?

-Did the discussion change the way you think about sustainability? If so how.

Workbooks will need to be submitted as an A4 Word Document in font size equivalent to or greater than Arial 12 point into the drop box.

Assessment Criteria : Workbook

By week 12 Workbooks will need to:-

demonstrate an awareness of different definitions of sustainability and the way in which they are embedded in particular approaches to the practice of sustainability 

articulate and defend a personal position on sustainability;

3. Critique that position by demonstrating an awareness of the assumptions embedded in that position

demonstrate an awareness of the limitations and potential of alternative positions on sustainability

provide evidence of learning and change through engagement in the course

Demonstrate an understanding of the possibilities and potential of sustainability in both professional and personal life


If you have a long term medical condition and/or disability it may be possible to negotiate to vary aspects of the learning or assessment methods. You can contact the program coordinator or the Equitable Learning Services if you would like to find out more.

Your course assessment conforms to RMIT assessment principles, regulations, policies and procedures:

The Student Charter provides an overview of key responsibilities of RMIT Staff and Students to ensure a successful experience of university life.