Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title

A Placement Geography Module

Originator

Glynne Watkin

Department

Division of Geography, School of Applied Sciences, University of Wolverhampton, Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1SB, UK

Tel.

+44 (0)1902 323522

Fax

+44 (0)1902 323379

Email

D.G.Watkin@wlv.ac.uk


Outline:

At the University of Wolverhampton the geography programme includes work placement as a final year optional module. As with other options it is weighed at 15 credits out of a 120 credit total for the third year. Students find their own host organisations and then negotiate a work plan which is expected to take up about ten hours a week throughout one semester. Both the host and the academic supervisor play a role in the assessment process.

Context:

This module builds on the Geography Division's involvement in the Enterprise in Higher Education and Higher Education for Capability initiatives, which had highlighted the benefits of various forms of student-centred learning. The work-placement module was seen as a logical extension of the staff's commitment to increasing student autonomy and to allowing students to assume greater responsibility for their own learning.

Main features:

The aims of the module are for students to gain experience of work environments, to develop their understanding of management and operational routines and to apply their geographic knowledge and transferable skills in a workplace setting. The module does not have a prescribed syllabus in the conventional sense because each student's programme of work is individual and in some ways unique. It is the student's task, in liaison with the host and the academic supervisor, to negotiate a detailed written workplan specifying the tasks to be undertaken and/or the topic(s) to be investigated. Several placements have, for example, been with local planning departments and have culminated in reports on subjects such as pedestrianisation proposals, land reclamation and the City Challenge scheme. The work-plan must also specify a set of skills which the student is expected to practise, which might include, for example, the use of IT, data analysis, interviewing and minute taking at meetings. Student progress and the implementation of the workplan are monitored by the academic staff at regular tutorial sessions. On the basis of agreed criteria, the student's academic performance is assessed by their academic supervisor and their 'in situ' performance is assessed by the host. Students are given a credit for their workplan, their personal commitment and capabilities, their investigative report (on a geography-related topic), their log-book/diary and an oral presentation when they review what they feel they have gained from the work-placement experience.

Evaluation:

Student performance has been encouraging. Their topic reports have generally been of a high standard and their log books and oral presentations have demonstrated how the placement can be used to identify and rectify personal and skills weaknesses. The staff have also noted how work-based students acquire increased resourcefulness, tenacity and self-confidence. Perhaps surprisingly, the main disappointment has been how few students have opted for this module (typically only five or six out of a year group of about forty). Students often perceive it as a high-risk module in which their performance could be affected by factors outside their control. They prefer the safety of more conventional modules.

Key advice:

References:

Watkin, G. (1995) Placement module: applying geographic skills in the workplace, in A. Jenkins & A. Ward (Eds.) Developing Skill-based Curricula Through the Disciplines: case studies of good practice in Geography, SEDA Paper 89, pp. 41-49.

Keywords:

Student centred learning
Work placement
Work plan

This is one of the case studies which appears in the GDN Guide "Transferable Skills and Work-based Learning in Geography"


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