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Study information

Global Challenges

Module titleGlobal Challenges
Module codeGEOM141
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr James Dyke (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will give you an introduction to real-world sustainability challenges, training in problem-solving research and how it can be applied to effect meaningful change. This includes an introduction to earth system science and humans’ impacts. You will be presented sustainability challenges from a panel of academics and external partners. Working in groups and then individually, you will develop a strategy to tackle your chosen challenge. You will receive training sessions that will develop core skills such as communication, project management, researching the literature, and presenting. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will provide you with an understanding of the global context of sustainability and how this can be downscaled to specific challenges, with an emphasis on how to connect sustainability and systems theory to real-world challenges. You will receive guidance and training on how to transform a sustainability challenge into a solutions proposal. This will give you first-hand experience of working in wicked problem spaces and the challenges and opportunities they provide. A formative assessment will allow you to develop a short factual “explainer” film that will effectively communicate a particular global challenge to an online general audience.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Detail the evolution and functioning of the major Earth system processes
  • 2. Analyse the interactions between earth-system components over human to geological timescales
  • 3. Collaboratively design an initial response to a sustainability challenge

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Interpret specific sustainability challenges in the light of sustainability and systems theory
  • 5. Link local/regional sustainability challenges to global-scale processes

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Synthesise and critically evaluate research and findings from an interdisciplinary range of sources and methodologies
  • 7. Work effectively in groups, with interpersonal skills developed through interactive discussion, practical sessions, and group assessment
  • 8. Formulate effective project management plans
  • 9. Undertake independent, self-directed study and research

Syllabus plan

Teaching will feature staff from across multiple departments, as well as guest academics and professionals that will link research to real-world sustainability challenges. Near the start of teaching, external partners will present a real-world sustainability challenge. You will work in groups to produce a solutions proposal which will be pitched to a review board of academic staff and external partners later in Term 1. Lectures, seminars, and workshops will cover the following topics:

  • Earth system science introduction
  • Introducing the Anthropocene
  • Exploring the food-energy-water nexus
  • Global demographic trends
  • Research methods in sustainability science and systems thinking
  • Approaches for the co-production of knowledge
  • Development and use of policy briefs and white papers
  • Effective group working and project management
  • Presentation and communication skills
  • Short factual film-making

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching1Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching8Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching8Seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching2Individual presentations of short film (formative)
Scheduled learning and teaching2Preparation for assessment workshop
Scheduled learning and teaching5Residential
Guided independent study124Reading and research for tutorials, workshops and assessment, group work

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short film “explainer” communicating a global challenge5 minutes1-3, 6-7, 10Written/oral on request

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay752000 words1-3, 5-7, 10Written/oral on request
Group presentation2520 minutesAllWritten/oral on request

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-3, 5-7, 10Referred/deferred period
Group presentationAnnotated presentation fileAllReferred/deferred period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to redo the relevant assessment. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Specific readings will be provided for the module consistent with the taught areas of theory for that year but in general you will be expected to read original theory articles or book chapters. A couple of examples are given below but these may not be included in the year’s syllabus. You can contact the module lead in the Autumn semester for details of the theory that will be covered in the upcoming year.

  • Mulligan, M., 2014. An introduction to sustainability: Environmental, social and personal perspectives. Routledge.
  • Lewis, S.L. and Maslin, M.A., 2015. Defining the Anthropocene. Nature, 519 (7542), p.171.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Environmental sustainability, theory, practice, policy

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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