NIFK14029U Motivation and Pro-Environmental Behaviour - Managing Change

Volume 2024/2025

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



This course focuses on ways to understand behavior and motivate change toward pro-environmental behaviours.

Meaningful action to redress the ecological crises of our times will require the support and participation of the public, acting collectively toward localized and systemic change. This course explores how individuals and social groups, as consumers/producers, and as members of various communities, may be motivated toward pro-environmental behavior (PEB). PEB is many things, including: reduced energy consumption, agroecological pest management, the use of bicycles or public transport, reuse, repair, and upcycling, collective living, shopping organic and local, and participation in social/political movements. Beyond a focus on ‘regular people’, students may also consider how relatively powerful actors such as political leaders or industry executives may be motivated toward pro-environmental behaviour and policy change.

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.

Motivation and behaviour theories span studies of specific, individual behaviour (e.g. Theory of Planned Behaviour, various cognitive biases), to macro level studies of how behaviour is shaped by structural factors like infrastructure, technology, economy, public discourse, media debate, and gender norms. Some theories and analytical frameworks assume that human behaviour is guided by economic / individualistic logics; some consider rationality to be value-driven and include broader communal and societal interests. Some theories and approaches focus on habits, emotions, embedded practices, the nature of narratively framing problems and solutions, and power dynamics as key entry points for change-making.

Actual interventions will be showcased throughout, such as political and grassroots campaigns, public sector interventions, community initiatives, and more. Based on real-life cases from public, non-profit and private organisations engaged at various levels (municipal, national, global) on environmental issues and management, students will learn to apply these theories in the real world and become better equipped as citizens and future policy makers and policy influencers, to formulate intervention strategies to achieve desired changes. Students are also expected to consider the implications of behavioural theories on policy practice. How do the different ways we look upon human behaviour, enable or limit what becomes possible in relation to environmental behavioural change? We will also explore the effects, both intended and unintended, of various change-making strategies, by considering the socio-ecological justice implications of particular change strategies in practice. Throughout, we will keep in mind where precisely all these change strategies are taking us, and how they relate to our desired futures.



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, collective and structural 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 in light of overarching political, legal, and structural conditions.


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 from diverse disciplinary backgrounds an introduction to theories of motivation, behaviour, and change-making. No prior knowledge of motivation and behavioral theories is required.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.
The course consists of lectures, real life cases and excursions, exercises, and students’ colloquia. During the course, students work frequently in small groups to apply course literature to actual cases and/or further engage with the course texts through various activities.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 40
  • Class Instruction
  • 16
  • Preparation
  • 78
  • Theory exercises
  • 64
  • Excursions
  • 8
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Group work that takes place throughout the course is a key place for feedback from both lecturers and student peers. 

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 minutes
Type of assessment details
20 minutes. No time for preparation.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners

Same as ordinary exam.

Criteria for exam assesment

See the criteria for Learning outcome