Environmental sustainability is a hot topic these days. We seem hooked on the insatiable use of non-renewable resources; our planet is in jeopardy, and our daily habits predict a dire future. Amid increasing media coverage of sustainable living, Athabasca University’s Centre for Psychology has released the timely PSYC 465, Psychology of Sustainability. The course gives students the opportunity to explore the sustainable lifestyle from a psychology-oriented standpoint.
PSYC 465, a nine-unit course, focuses on the ?psychological research and theory relevant to the problems of inducing people to live and work so that our planet remains viable for future generations,? explains course professor Lyle Grant.
Although PSYC 465 is an eclectic course, using information and interpretations from all branches of psychology, Dr. Grant notes that it draws heavily from the social psychology and behavioural analysis fields (due to the abundance of relevant resources and studies in these areas). However, humanistic psychology, developmental psychology and the psychology of environmental stress and restoration are ?also given coverage, each with a separate unit,? he says.
The course materials are united by a common thread: the ?why? of human attitudes and behaviours toward our ecosystem. As Dr. Grant explains, ?[in] degrading the environment and depleting our natural resources, we are failing to exert self-control over our own behaviour.?
Student evaluation in PSYC 465 consists of four assignment types. First, each unit ends with a quiz, with the quizzes totalling 18 per cent of the final grade. The second assignment (10 per cent) is related to information retrieval; its purpose is to ?[familiarize] students with the use of online library resources in psychology,? Dr. Grant says. For the third assignment, students complete a bibliography (20 per cent).
There is no final exam in PSYC 465. Dr. Grant explains that this choice was deliberate: ?Several years ago I chaired the General Education Task Force of the Middle States Accreditation project and I discovered that AU graduates believe their educational experience at AU is valuable and of high quality, with one significant exception: the surveys have consistently shown that the grads believe that AU courses do not prepare them adequately for public speaking.? To address this need, the fourth and final assignment in PSYC 465 is a slide presentation which will ?give students experience in doing an oral presentation.? Dr. Grant hopes that this will spark a similar trend among other AU courses.
Dr. Grant has been part of AU’s Centre for Psychology since 1981, currently teaching five AU psychology courses in addition to PSYC 465. He has a special interest in distance education delivery and associated student learning, and has created several online tutorials for AU students.
For more information on PSYC 465 (Psychology of Sustainability), visit the course website.