Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Teaching Large Classes in the Field
Originator Jane Francis
Department Department of Earth Sciences, University of Leeds, UK
Tel. +44 (0)113 2336761
Fax +44 (0)113 233 5259

At the University of Leeds the numbers of students in Earth Science classes has increased to around 100 in each year and encompass four different degree courses.The staff in the department have coped with this by developing a system with emphasis on better preparation, focus, student motivation and staff efficiency. For example, at the beginning of each module the student is provided with a detailed and informative handbook to guide them through the course. Small group tutorials are still vital but they are now better structured with exercises devised to provide study skills and preparation for project work. Core Skills modules help provide students with study skills, self-appraisal and career preparation. More efficient use is made of staff time by introducing class peer assessment and group presentations.

All first year students go on the same field trip to Pembrokeshire during the Easter vacation. The aims of the trip are to:

The students divide themselves into groups of 5-6. The groups are supervised by 12 members of staff including post-graduates.

Group Posters: each group is required to produce two posters during the trip. Each poster is expected to summarise the geology on a theme (usually the previous two days' fieldwork) and the groups have around 5 hours to produce them using field sketches, data, logs, stereonets etc. The posters are marked and returned, with feedback, the next day. Marking all the posters takes about 2 hours. The posters are displayed the next day (with the marks hidden) and the students are asked to perform a peer assessment. The top three posters, as judged by the students, are compared with those judged by the staff - this provides a good learning experience as the students tend to over assess presentation. A prize is given for the best poster. The second set of posters are marked by the staff (but not peer assessed to save time) and a prize is given for the most improved poster as well as for the best. The marks for the posters are 20% of the total.

Individual Posters: the final day of the trip is to a mystery location, the students work in groups but have to produce individual posters. This individual poster counts as 30% of the assessment total.

Field notebooks: the mark for the field notebook is 50% of the total. Each evening the staff sit down with some of the groups and talk through their field notebooks, this way the students have continuous feedback and can improve their record taking skills.

Advantages of Groupwork and Posters:


Group work
Large classes
Peer assessment
Poster presentation

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Page created 5 June 2000
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