Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Lecturing: case study from University of Plymouth, UK
Originator Vince Gardiner1 and Vaneeta D'Andrea2
Department 1School of Social Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Trueman Building, 15-21 Webster Street, Liverpool, L3 2ET, UK
2University of Surrey Institute Roehampton, Southlands College, Wimbledon Parkside, London, SW19 5NN, UK
Tel. 1+44 (0)151 231 4043
2+44 (0)181 392 3270

This case study is based on Charman & Fullerton, 1995

'Philosophical concepts in geography are widely regarded as an important element in geography degrees, yet students have considerable problems in understanding them, appreciating their value and applying and integrating them into the rest of their work. Part of an existing large lecture course was modified with the support of an educational developer, primarily to promote student understanding by increasing interaction between the lecturer and student.'

(Charman & Fullerton, 1995, p.57)

This was done by making lecture notes available to the students in advance of each session, incorporating group discussions and feedback, and creating opportunities for verbal and written questions to be asked by the students. The effectiveness of these efforts was evaluated by student questionnaires. In addition, an educational developer observed one lecture. The techniques, while not innovations in themselves, were new to the lecturer concerned and to the vast majority of the students.

The lecturer's response:

'It is clear that the new methods have achieved at least two of the main aims identified initially: lectures had become more stimulating for students and I certainly found the teaching style more rewarding, if perhaps somewhat harder work! Students were obviously spending more time considering ideas in the lectures rather than simply recording notes passively. However, there is no evidence that this carries through to non-contact time and the fact that only a low proportion of the students have read notes before lectures is worrying. Finally, students did appear to understand the concepts rather better than last year's students, judging by the standard of course work submitted and according to their own responses to the questionnaire and comments at the course committee.'

The educational developer's observations:

Charman & Fullerton (1995) report that the observations of the educational developer offered insight to the lecturer particularly on areas of the lecture theatre which were 'thick' with students. They note that:

'Lecturers are usually both fascinated and horrified to discover what goes on at the far horizon. The fact that distanced students also become involved (even excited at times, albeit sporadically) is testament to the success of the approach.'

(Charman & Fullerton, 1995, p.66)


'The educational developer... gave a valuable insight into student behaviour and reaction to different aspects of the lecture as well as providing expert commentary on the good and bad points with advice on how to develop in future. Some lecturers intuitively appreciate that active learning is more effective and they may also know the techniques for achieving this. However, it is not always easy to see how they can be incorporated into existing courses already taught using traditional lectures. It is interesting that it was the particular challenge of a topic, traditionally experienced as hard by both students and lecturers, that led to this successful integrated strategy which can be applied to other aspects of the curriculum.'

(Charman & Fullerton, 1995, p.66)


The Structure of Lectures:

c. 10 minutes:
Questions on overhead projector (OHP). The lecturer has copied onto acetate the questions submitted by the students at the end of the previous week. The lecturer discusses and relates these questions to the central issues and the next part of the current lecture.

c.10 minutes:
Introduction to the next conceptual ideas, again on OHP.

c. 10 minutes:
Case study drawn from the course text, where students read from the handbook individually and explore the ideas in small groups, directed by specific questions from the lecturer.

c. 15 minutes:
Feedback from students responding to questions posed in the case study. Lecturer adds these sequentially to an OHP. Students are prompted to elaborate on responses and make links with previous material; different answers and interpretations are discussed; good points are extended and references made to further material in the handbook and course text.

c.10 minutes:
Review, where students are given a time to review and reflect on their notes individually and to check their understanding with others. Some unresolved questions are dealt with immediately and others are put in the question box for the lecturer to deal with at the start of the next lecture. The questions placed in the box tend to be more reflective and penetrating and seem to encourage a more questioning attitude.

Source: (Charman & Fullerton, 1995, p.59)



Charman, D.J. & Fullerton, H. (1995) Interactive lectures: a case study in a geographical concepts course, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 19(1), pp.57-68.


Active learning
Group discussions
Student feedback

This is one of the case studies which appears in the GDN Guide "Teaching and Learning Issues and Managing Educational Change in Geography"

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