Path to the Horizon

Collaborate with other students to identify how a more sustainable world is possible

Module details

  • Offered to 3rd & 4th Years
  • Thursdays 16.00-18.00
  • Planned delivery: On campus (South Kensington)
  • Two-term module, worth 5 ECTS
  • Available to eligible students as part of I-Explore
  • Extra Credit, or Degree Credit where your department allows
Degree credit module options by departmentHow to enrol

How can we create change for a more sustainable world? Despite the increasing urgency of this issue, why are communications failing, and how could they be improved?

In this module you will address these questions by combining the study of sustainable development with the study of futures. You will examine how sustainable development and futures are approached in contemporary discourse and go on to propose how these approaches could be improved.

Utilising critical discourse analysis, you will work individually and collaboratively, pooling the qualitative findings of your research to enable broader analysis and critiques, and finally creating ideas for promoting change.

Dr Mark pope discusses his module Sustainable Futures

Sustainable Futures

Collaborate with other students to identify how a more sustainable world is possible

Published on May 3, 2023

Listen to Dr Mark Pope talking about the Sustainable Futures module

Please note: The information on this module description is indicative. The module may undergo minor modifications before the start of next academic year. 

Information blocks

groupworkOn successful completion of the module you will be able to:

  • Identify and critique key approaches to sustainable development
  • Identify and critique key approaches to futures
  • Apply a Critical Discourse Analysis to a text of your own choosing
  • Collaborate effectively with others to perform analyses and present your results using a video format                                  
  • Create a new text (written/image/video or otherwise) to promote future sustainable development

In this module, you will investigate sustainable development discourse and practice. You will be introduced to theories related to sustainable development and futures, contextualised through the consideration of historical and contemporary discourse. You will explore examples of communications on issues related to these themes with other students, before providing Critical Discourse Analyses on case studies of your own choosing. You will ultimately create a communications piece that promotes future sustainable development more effectively.

As an active learning module, your lecturer will provide you with instruction on how to complete the set activities. You will engage with tasks individually or in teams, and the lecturer will guide and help you or your team throughout the process. 

What you will learn

  • Key approaches to sustainable development and why they are(n’t) successful
  • Different approaches to conceptualising futures
  • How to undertake a critical discourse analysis

 What you will do

  • Work in teams to develop understanding of futures and sustainable development
  • Create videos presenting your ideas
  • Produce an alternative vision for how to create change for a more sustainable future

The learning and teaching approach provides you with significant freedom to choose the aspects of sustainable development that you are interested in. You will be given an introduction to, and guidance, in using development and discourse theory, and approaches to the study of futures. Furthermore, you will be provided with continuous feedback to equip and support you to do this effectively. You will engage in substantial amounts of collaboration and teamwork, thereby also benefiting from peer review and the comparison and synthesis of the results of individual investigations. The guidance, feedback and peer review that you receive for each assignment will be delivered in a cyclical process that you become familiar with and that allows you to improve your performance with each assignment.

We recognise the interrelated nature of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and do not consider individual SDGs in isolation.  We adopt a systems-based approach that recognises their cross-cutting nature. Therefore, on this module, your work will be relevant to a number of the SDGs.

This module explores sustainable development as a whole, and also provides you with opportunities to choose your own focus. Therefore, you could significantly address any of the seventeen SDGs through your selection of issues and cases for further investigation.

For instance, students could focus on the following SDGs through these examples of potential projects:

A critical discourse analysis on charities’ output on poverty alleviation campaigns:

  • SDG 1 on No Poverty (through consideration of how effective a campaign was in reducing poverty)
  • SDG 8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth (by assessing the approach taken on employment)
  • SDG 5 on Gender Equality (through a consideration of how gender is represented)

 A critique of UK government policy on Net Zero:

  • SDG 7 on Affordable and Clean Energy (through recognition of the unaffordable price of fossil fuel-based energy).
  • SDG 13 on Climate Action (by considering the impact on climate change).
  • SDG 17 on Partnership for the Goals (by considering North-South government relations).

 A suggested project to teach English to asylum seekers in the UK:

  • SDG 4 on Quality Education (by recognising the importance of ensuring everyone has the education and skills to fulfil their potential)
  • SDG 8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth (through the provision of key skills for employment)
  • SDG 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities (by prompting consideration of the need for communities to be inclusive of asylum seekers and refugees).


You will undertake formative learning activities engaging with theories and discourse on sustainable development and futures, for which you will receive feedback. These exercises and feedback will enable you to work in a team to perform critical discourse analyses of texts of your own choosing for the first two assignments. You will receive formal summative feedback for these. The first two assignments and the range of feedback from the lecturer and peer review activities will be used formatively to help complete the final assessment individually.

All three assignments are to be submitted as Video Essays. Full guidance on the requirments for the Video Essays will be provided in the assignment briefs. They have been chosen as an inclusive medium that alllows for a choice of formats and modalities within the video presentation - ranging from narrated PowerPoints to creative art pieces. The video format has added value for the analysis of discourse as it allows the presentation of examples of a variety of media, styles and genres, that can be difficult to present in a written essay. The same style of assessment is used three times to allow you to gain experience and proficiency in this mode of communication – accordingly the assignment weightings increase as you gain experience using the method.

You will also be required to submit 'Team Reflections' alongside the group Video Essays, to ensure that team working is a positive experience, well-supported and fairly accounted for in the assessment.

  • Practical: A group Video Essay critiquing a discourse related to sustainable development (3 minutes) (20%)
  • Practical: A group Video Essay critiquing a discourse related to futures (3 minutes) (30%)
  • Practical: An individual Video Essay promoting an alternative discourse (4 minutes) (50%)

You will receive ongoing formative feedback on your progress and written feedback and provisional marks for your submitted assessments within two term-time weeks of submission. Dialogic written feedback is provided for each assignment. As part of this feedback process, you will be asked to write a response to the feedback, which in turn will be reviewed by the lecturer.

  • Requirements: You are expected to attend all classes and undertake approximately 85 hours of independent study in total during the module. Independent study includes reading and preparation for classes, researching and writing coursework assignments and preparing for other assessments.
  • This module is designed as an undergraduate Level 6 module. For an explanation of levels, view the Imperial Horizons Level Descriptors page.‌‌

Feedback from Dr Pope's Creative Futures module

"I really enjoyed being able to think creatively and critically in a way so different from my normal course."
"A really fun and useful course that allows students to use their brains in a completely different way."
"The freedom within the module was very enjoyable and there was good guidance and exposure to a variety of techniques too."
"Working as a whole class to produce a single piece of work was a unique experience and I am really proud of what we have created."