NIFK14029U Motivation and Pro-Environmental Behaviour - Managing Change

Volume 2017/2018

MSc Programme in Agriculture
MSc Programme in Nature Management
MSc Programme in Forest and Nature Management
MSc Programme in Climate Change



This course focuses on ways to motivate pro-environmental behaviour change.

Solving global challenges of climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity conservation, provision of clean water, food, etc. all goes back to individual and social behaviour related to the environment. The key questions addressed in this course are: How can citizens – consumers, producers, communities - be motivated to change towards environmentally friendly behaviour – whether it is to change energy consumption patterns, reduce use of pesticides on own land, take the bike or train instead of the car, increase recycling, pick up litter in the park or buy organic products? What are different strategies to achieve behavioural change, and what effect do they have?

The course builds on theories about motivation and behaviour, theories of change, real life cases and practical tools to initiate and sustain behavioural change among individuals, groups and organisations:

The motivation and behaviour theories presented span from studies of specific, individual behaviour (e.g. theory of planned behaviour), to macro level studies of how behaviour is shaped by societal factors like infrastructure, technology, economy, public discourse and media debate. Some theories anticipate that human behaviour is guided by economic, rational choice, while other extend rationality to also include, e.g. considerations of own and others' norms and expectations. Hereby relations and communities come to play a major role. Other theories, in contrast, focus more on habit, emotions, direct experience and how this is formative for behavioural change.

Change theories similarly take different approaches to behavioural change and hereby present different solution strategies: Learning theories emphasise the importance of transforming underlying assumptions through reflection, but also the importance of role models for so-called legitimate, peripheral learning. Innovation diffusion theory shows how behaviour spreads through networks, and organisational change models operate with parallel political, technical-rational, cultural and exploratory change strategies. Some approaches focus on stages of change as a way to gradually change habits, whereas other take a systemic approach, arguing that lasting change can only succeed if the whole system is involved in the change. A focus of the course will be on how change can be achieved through working with communities versus individuals.

Empirical evidence of interventions will be applied throughout the course: information and media campaigns, community engagement, role models, schemes and taxes, etc.
Based on real-life cases from private and public organisations, municipalities, national park management, a.o. , students will learn to apply these theories to practice and formulate intervention strategies to achieve desired changes. Students are also expected to consider the implications of behavioural theories to policy practice. How do the different ways by which we look upon human behaviour enable or limit how we think of behavioural change related to the environment?!

Learning Outcome


The aim of this course is to provide students with skills to understand, analyse and conduct change processes aimed at enhancing environmentally friendly behaviour.
This is done by introducing students to a set of theoretical approaches to study motivation, behaviour, and behavioural change, and to enable students to apply these in their own work.

Based on the course, it is expected that the student can
- understand and describe a set of theories of motivation and behaviour
- understand and describe selected theories of individual and organisational change
- apply relevant behavioural theory to environmental cases, be it national park management, transport behaviour, recycling, energy and food consumption or private land management.
- suggest strategies and actions to enhance environmentally friendly behaviour in selected cases
- critically discuss opportunities and limitations to behavioural change, given the political, legal, administrative and managerial set up.


The course will be based on scientific articles and key references on 1) motivation and behaviour theory, and 2) strategies and tools for management of change in organizations and communities

The course is designed to give students with a natural science background an introduction to theories of motivation, behaviour and change management. No prior knowledge of motivation and behavioral theories is required
The course consists of lectures, real life cases and excursions, exercises, and students’ colloquia. During the course, the students prepare and hand in written assignments based on the course literature and applied to real life cases
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Colloquia
  • 16
  • Excursions
  • 8
  • Lectures
  • 40
  • Preparation
  • 78
  • Theory exercises
  • 64
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Portfolio exam – the four best of five written assignments count. The assignments are specified for each course season, but could include, e.g. - Bi-weekly diary with reflections of how the applied theories have been relevant in the student’s own daily life or to current, public issues - Critical reflections on scientific articles about motivation and behaviour - Analysis and critical evaluation of selected real life intervention strategy - Development of intervention strategy for selected real life cases

Weight: Each of three assignments count 20 % and one assignment counts 40 % (mandatory). The final grade is calculated as a weighted average of the results from the part-examinations.

The portfolio should be handed in Monday in block week 9 (the exam week).
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Internal examiners

Oral examination within the course curriculum. 30 minutes. No time for preparation.

If the student has not handed in four assignments, then they must be handed in two weeks prior to the re-exam. They must be approved before the exam.

Criteria for exam assesment

See the criteria for Learning outcome