Module code: PSYM149

Module Overview

This dual-level module seeks to both explore theories and models of people's behaviour, and to illustrate these via application to real-world, contemporary issues. Students will be introduced to a range of psychological approaches that can be used to understand and influence behaviour (e.g., motivational approaches, nudging), and to a range of applied behavioural contexts including health (e.g., how can we help people be more active?) and environmental (e.g., how can we help people consume less energy?).

Each lecture serves to introduce both one psychological theory or concept, and a specific real-world behavioural challenge, to which that theory (and others) may be applied.
Lectures are supplemented by seminars and workshops. Seminars involve unassessed group presentations and critical discussions of research papers relating to the application of psychological strategies to contemporary behaviour change challenges. Workshops centre on group-based, problem-based learning, with students addressing a real-world behaviour change problem.

Module provider


Module Leader

GARDNER Benjamin (Psychology)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): 20

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 12

Independent Learning Hours: 97

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 10

Guided Learning: 15

Captured Content: 5

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Content includes:

  • Psychology theories, models and concepts for understanding behaviour

  • Theory- and evidence-based methods for changing behaviour

  • Behaviour change intervention frameworks

  • Critical analysis of behaviour change theory, research and real-world applications

  • Understanding and changing health and environmental behaviours

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Project (Group/Individual/Dissertation) Group presentation 25
Coursework Individual essay 75

Alternative Assessment

In the event that a student cannot be assessed through the group poster, they can instead be assessed using a second essay. The goal of the group presentation is to act as a culmination of work through the semester in which students incrementally apply material from the module to tackle a behaviour-change challenge. These same outcomes could be assessed with an essay if necessary.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of behaviour change theory and methods and how it may be applied to understand and change real-world behaviours, as well as to demonstrate transferrable reflective, critical, and presentational skills.

The summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • A group presentation in which students describe and critically evaluate how they have applied behaviour change theory, concepts and methods to address a real-world problem

  • An individual essay in which students critically evaluate a real-world behaviour change research study, thereby demonstrating awareness of behaviour change theory and research and its application to understand and change behaviour in a real-world context

Formative Assessment and Feedback

  • Verbal, formative feedback on students’ presentation skills are provided by module staff and fellow students (i.e., peer review) throughout the seminars

  • Verbal, formative feedback on students’ ongoing work on applying core theories, concepts and methods to a real-world context is provided by module staff throughout the workshops

  • Verbal, formative feedback on students’ understanding of the core content and its application to real-world contexts is provided throughout the seminars and workshops

Module aims

  • To provide students with a critical understanding of how researchers have attempted to influence behaviour in a broad range of contexts including health and environment, and the challenges involved in doing so
  • To develop students' knowledge and ability to apply and synthesise core psychology theories and methods for understanding and changing behaviour in real-world settings
  • To develop students' practical, research and transferrable skills, and experience of deploying these skills, to understand and change behaviour
  • To equip students with the skills to draw on psychology theory and research and design, implement, evaluate, and critically reflect on a behaviour change intervention to address a contemporary real-world issue
  • To support students to reflect and critically engage with issues impacting real-world behaviour change practice and research

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Develop a comprehensive and critical understanding of core theories and models in behaviour change KC
002 Develop critical awareness of how, why and with what effect behaviour change principles can be applied to real-world situations KCPT
003 Develop an ability to select, synthesise and apply behaviour change theories, concepts, methods and principles appropriately to specific real-world problems KCPT
004 Be able to evaluate the success of applications of psychological behaviour change science to specific audiences KCPT
005 Develop an ability to clearly and effectively communicate behaviour change principles and applications to specialist and non-specialist audiences KCPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Develop knowledge of core theories, concepts and methods for understanding and changing behaviour in real-world settings

  • Develop knowledge of specific behavioural domains, including health and environmental behaviour

  • Develop skills in synthesising and applying theories, concepts and methods to real-world contexts

  • Develop communication skills through classroom-based presentations and group discussions; encourage students to consider the skills useful for becoming a health psychologist

  • Develop reflective and critical analysis skills

  • Foster students’ awareness of different issues impacting contemporary real-world behaviour change contexts

  • Develop students' ability to critically evaluate behaviour change theory, research and application

Lectures: this is the main source of content delivery.

Lectures each provide coverage of one theory, model, concept or method for understanding or changing behaviour, and one behavioural domain in which this theory/model/concept/method can be applied


Seminars each involve a group presentation and critical discussion of one or more examples of a real-world behaviour change intervention or application (e.g., research papers). Formative feedback from the seminar lead and peers serves to build students’ skills and confidence in effective communication of scientific ideas to academic and non-specialist audiences.

Workshops each centre on problem-based learning, with students working in groups to address a real-world behaviour change problem cumulatively, drawing on core content as the module progresses. Workshop activities culminate in an assessed presentation showcasing the group’s proposed solution to the challenge

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PSYM149

Other information

The School of Psychology is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills, and capabilities in the following areas:

Employability (E)

This module supports students’ employability skills in that it trains them in key practical skills, including understanding and critical reflection on the application of behaviour change theories, concepts, and strategies to various real-world domains. Domains have been selected to encompass a broad range of settings, including health and environment, to increase awareness of persistently core areas for applied psychologists. The assessment requires the student to design a behaviour change intervention for a student-selected population, and to critically reflect on the design, feasibility and potential effectiveness of this intervention. This requires the accumulation, synthesis and application of knowledge of behavioural theory, and in-depth knowledge of one or more specific domains. The student must not only be knowledgeable about their chosen area of application, but also communicate information to peers, specialists and non-specialist audiences, and critically evaluate their work, all of which are key transferrable skills highly valued by employers.

Digital capabilities (D)

Students must engage with multiple digital skills during the course, including (but not restricted to) use of: the University of Surrey Virtual Learning Environment (SurreyLearn) to access the course materials and key content; online search engines to identify appropriate sources for their assignments; electronic bibliographic databases to store these sources; and selection and use of software for appropriate communication and presentation of ideas to a range of audiences (e.g., Word, PowerPoint, Prezi).

Global and cultural capabilities (G)

This module focuses on a range of contemporary behaviour change challenges, including those that people the world over and within many different cultures experience and must manage, and so students cover many global challenges. Students will learn about a range of different theoretical and practical approaches designed to address common issues, rooted in human behaviour, which currently face global citizens. Students are encouraged to think about the cultural contexts in which behaviour change interventions are design, implemented and evaluated.

Sustainability (S)

The module covers a range of contemporary issues rooted in human behaviour, and thereby maps directly on to multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals. For example, coverage of health promotion addresses the goal of Good Health and Wellbeing, and environmental behaviour change speaks to Responsible Consumption and Production, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Climate Action. In considering how to address real-world problems in a manner that produces equitable benefits for all, students also encounter challenges that speak to goals of Gender Equality and Reduced Inequalities.

Resourcefulness and resilience (R) 

This module provides several opportunities to develop resourcefulness and resilience, and assessments play an important role in this pillar. Students must be resourceful because they must select a contemporary health challenge to research and to which to apply behaviour change theories, principles, and strategies. They must also critically reflect on their intervention. Extant behaviour change initiatives and evidence are discussed and critiqued, and personalized formative feedback is provided on students’ ongoing group intervention development project work throughout the teaching sessions. Together, these activities are designed to instill confidence and will enable students to reflect on a positive outcome which will build resilience.¿¿ 

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Environmental Psychology MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Social Psychology MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.