Course background and instructions

Welcome to this online course on the STEPS Pathways Approach.

The ESRC STEPS Centre represents a global consortium of partners from the Global North and South that carry out interdisciplinary research and policy engagement on pathways to sustainability. Our work looks at how pathways to sustainability – linking environmental integrity with social justice – can be built in today’s complex, dynamic world.

Through this online course you will be guided through a combination of readings and video lectures that introduce you to the STEPS Pathways Approach (the STEPS Centre’s flagship theoretical approach to sustainability research and policy making), as well as conceptual and methodological resources for applying the Pathways Approach in research, policy and practice.

Watch a short introduction to the course from the STEPS Centre’s Director, Professor Ian Scoones.

Who is this course for?

Anyone is welcome to take this course, regardless of background.

The course builds on the more detailed and extensive STEPS Summer School run annually by the STEPS Centre at the University Sussex. Participants in the Summer School are required to either be enrolled on a PhD or have recently completed a doctorate.

However, we hope that the resources here will be equally accessible to undergraduate and Masters level students, as well as informed professionals.


Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  1. Define what the STEPS Pathways Approach is and its relevance to analysing and informing sustainability policy and practice in today’s complex, dynamic world.
  2. Articulate the relevance and use of the Pathways Approach across multiple contemporary sustainability agendas, transcending both research and policy/practice.
  3. Apply the Pathways Approach and related conceptual and methodological approaches through your own research and policy/practice.

Note: Each individual part has its own learning outcomes. Participants should use these for guidance on how they are progressing against the aims of each part and the course as a whole.

Course structure

navigationThis course consists of six parts, with sections (e.g. 1.1, 1.2) in each part. You can browse around them using the navigation menu that appears to the left of each page (see picture on right). 

We recommend completing the parts in the order in which they're shown. They take you through various concepts and ideas, ending up with methods (part 6) which is about putting these concepts in practice.

Each part is structured as follows:

  1. A starting page tells you the learning outcomes for that part, followed by links to the sections within that part.
  2. Each section begins with one or more essential readings and suggested questions to guide that reading. You are advised to download and read this before listening to the lecture. All the essential readings are Open Access (OA) and available online.
  3. Following the essential reading, a video lecture appears. Watch this after you have read the essential reading and considered the suggested questions. Having listened to the lecture, we suggest you then return to the questions and think about them again.
  4. Some sections also list additional readings, to give you ideas for reading about this topic in more depth. You can also look at the bibliographies of the essential readings for other suggestions on literature to read. These additional readings are not always open access - if you can't view them, you can try the following:
  • Some journal publishing websites allow you to register free to get access to articles.
  • Try an online search using the doi (digital object identifier), the title or the authors to see if the article is downloadable elsewhere.
  • Many academic institutions and libraries have some degree of access to journal websites, if you are fortunate enough to be located near one and can use their computer system.
  • Send an email to the author of an article and ask for a PDF - some authors are happy to provide literature in this way to students.
  • Some academics publish their articles themselves on websites like Researchgate, or on their own personal websites with permission, allowing them to be previewed free of charge. You may be able to find these by searching online for the title of a paper.
  • To find other relevant articles and further work that cites an author's work or builds on their ideas, consult Google scholar, JSTOR and journal websites.
  1. At the very end of each part's homepage some suggestions are made for assessment questions and/or activities. These are intended to help any lecturers or instructors seeking to use this e-learning course for their own teaching. If you’re working on your own, you can use these questions and activities to inform your own self-assessment against the learning outcomes for each part.

Ready to begin?

Go straight to part 1: Introduction to the Pathways Approach



Last modified: Monday, 23 January 2017, 12:39 PM