Module Catalogue 2021/22

TCP3054 : Planning Theory and Politics

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Simin Davoudi
  • Lecturer: Dr Andrew Law, Dr Abigail Schoneboom
  • Owning School: Architecture, Planning & Landscape
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module examines the ways in which the practice of planning has been imagined, explained and justified. It addresses the ideological, political and ethical dimensions of planning practice using the lens of various theories of planning, power and urban development. It considers the distributional aspects of planning and a range of political and organisational rationalities that shape and constrain planning practice. The module aims to develop a strong constructive critique of planning practice, to engender greater reflexivity in students about the position of the planner in urban change. The module also provides broad theoretical frameworks which can guide the students’ dissertations in semester 2.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus will cover the following themes. The order may change according to staff availability.

•       Introduction to the Module and the Assignment
•       What is theory for, what sets theories apart from each other, why use theory in research?
•       Positivism and rationalism
•       Marxism and structuralism
•       Modernism, postmodernism, post-structuralism
•       Pragmatism
•       Democratic politics: Aggregative, deliberative and agonistic perspectives
•       Complexity and actor-network theory
•       Knowledge, power and evidence-base
•       Deep uncertainty and resilience thinking
•       Imagination, spatial imaginaries, and utopian planning

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

On completion of the module, students are expected to be able to:
•       Develop knowledge of planning theory and its relationship to planning practice
•       Make connections between planning theory, planning history & urban theory in stages 1 & 2
•       Enhance their understanding of the political and ethical dimensions of planning practice
•       Obtain an awareness of the critiques of planning as a practice
•       Develop reflexivity and critical thinking in practicing planning

Intended Skill Outcomes

By the end of this module students will be able to demonstrate:
•       Their ability to synthesize information
•       Their ability to think critically and apply theoretical concepts to planning practice
•       Clear written communication skills
•       Problem solving abilities related to the theoretically-informed critiques of planning practice

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials240:208:0024 recorded content of c.20 minutes each on themes identified in the syllabus
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion1100:00100:00Writing up of written exercise
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading322:0064:00Reading lists provided for each theme in support of learning and assessment as well as preparation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops42:008:00To apply theory to practice each split into 3-4 parallel groups facilitated by staff PiP if feasible
Structured Guided LearningStructured non-synchronous discussion101:0010:00Structured discussion with guiding questions in relation to content delivered in lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery42:008:00Tutorial support towards learning and assessment & opportunity for asking questions PiP if feasible
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesModule talk12:002:00Meet the students and introduce module and assignment. PiP if feasible
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Through blended teaching and learning an overview of planning theory is provided which covers various schools of thoughts and their critiques. Examples from planning practice will help making links between theory and practice in planning.

The blended teaching and learning consists of a mixture of PiP if feasible, synchronous, and non-synchronous sessions consisting of: an introduction to the module and assignment; a range of lecture materials including: introductory talks to explain the portfolio of guided structured learning activities for each session, and how they relate to the module learning outcomes; recorded content blocks of 2 per session of 20 minutes each to cover the themes of the module; in-depth engagement through reading selected papers or watching short videos / listening to podcasts which will then be discussed as a cohort in a non-synchronous online discussion board facilitated by that session’s academic contributor; and in 4 PiP (if feasible and if not synchronous) workshops to learn more in- depth knowledge of planning theory and its application in planning practice. Also, 4 PiP (if feasible and if not synchronous) Q&A sessions will provide tutorial opportunity to answer questions about the lectures and the assignment and gain students’ feedback.

The recorded lecture materials will cover the themes mentioned in the syllabus. The PiP (if feasible and if not synchronous) workshops and the non-synchronous online discussion boards provide students with the opportunity to discuss and delve deeper into issues explored in the lecture materials and in the selected readings in a structured way, and to critically reflect on planning practice, with the support of independent reading. All activities aim to support and guide students in the preparation for assessed coursework. The Q&A sessions are offered to guide the students in their preparation for coursework.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M100One individual essay of 3,000 words (excl references) which critically reviews / unpacks a theory and applies it to a planning case.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay tests the ability of the students to think creatively and critically about planning practice through using new theories and integrating these with knowledge introduced in earlier stages of the programme.

The assessment meets three key objectives:
1.       To prepare students to become aware of various planning thoughts and the political nature of planning
2.       To alert students to multiple perspectives on the what planning is and what it is for
3.       To encourage students to develop critical thinking and professional reflexivity

To complete the assessments, students will need to familiarize themselves with a planning theory and a case study of planning practice. They need to know the main features of that theory and be able to use it to assess the case study of planning practice. They also need to deploy their own critical thinking and argumentation skills to provide a robust and compelling assessment of their selected case.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2021/22 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2022/23 entry will be published here in early-April 2022. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.