Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies
Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies

Course Design: Hands on Learning


In examining GBR policymaking processes, this course addresses the following questions: What, according to the most rigorous scientific studies, is the current state of the GBR’s ecosystems? What policies are in place to manage and protect the GBR, and what levels of government are responsible for implementing those policies? What explains the adoption of these policies—in other words, what are their political and economic foundations? How well are existing policies working? Are there better policy options? And, if so, what are the political prospects for their adoption? In sum, to what extent is GBR policy driven by scientific evidence, political calculations, and economic imperatives? In answering these questions, the course considers the role of political institutions, party politics, economic interests, societal values, activism, and experts in shaping policy outcomes.

It does so through a combination of classroom learning and on-site investigation at the GBR. The latter entails visiting the Reef and seeing firsthand the difference between healthy and unhealthy coral reefs; learning from leading GBR researchers about threats to the Reef; and, meeting with representatives from the various political, economic, and societal sectors that have a stake in the GBR. The course will combine regular classroom meetings with experiential, active learning. Students will assume the role of researchers charged with ascertaining the state of the GBR, evaluating the effectiveness of current policies, and assessing the GBR’s future prospects. Within these parameters, they will focus on a specific issue of their choice.

The course will have a regular classroom schedule, but its defining feature will be its access to the GBR and various persons with special knowledge and interests in the Reef. Small groups of roughly five students each will be assembled based on student responses to a pre-trip survey. During our four weeks in the field, students will engage with one another in their groups as they pursue their individual research projects. Group work will consist of preparing for meetings and excursions that will entail: (1) researching the people with whom they will meet and the places they will visit; (2) identifying what they wish to learn from their meetings and excursions; and, (3) drafting specific questions to ask in their meetings and excursions. Despite the collaborative course format, final course grades will be based on each student’s performance on individual assignments. The course is designed to help students hone a set of transferable skills that includes research, writing, policy analysis, interviewing, and public speaking.

Students who participate will be required to enroll in a one-credit hour course in the spring 2021 semester. They are encouraged, but not required, to take Australian Society and Politics (GOV 365J), also offered in spring 2021.

  • Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies

    The University of Texas at Austin
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