|Title||Third Year Group Projects|
|Originator||Shelagh B Waddington|
|Department||Department of Geography, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland|
|Tel.||+353 (0)1 708 3603|
|Fax||+353 (0)1 708 3573|
As numbers of students taking honours degrees in Geography have increased greatly in recent years while staff numbers have increased only slightly, problems have arisen with regard to providing adequate thesis supervision. Concern was also expressed that students had only limited opportunities to build upon skills developed in First and Second year courses, especially those related to working as a team in small groups, as is often the situation in the workforce. After a number of partial solutions were tried (with limited success) it was decided to take a more radical approach that involved replacing the thesis by two group projects.
Students were divided into groups of approximately 18 (on broad criteria, such as gender and general area of interest) and each staff member was required to devise a project which could be completed by the students working in groups of 4-5 over a period of 1 semester (approximately 13 weeks). It was envisaged that the project would then be repeated during the second semester, by another group of students. The projects were devised by individual staff members following basic guidelines covering aspects such as skills to be developed, modes of assessment and general organisation. Assessment involved staff evaluations of both oral and written aspects qualified by students' self- and peer-assessments. Topics for projects included sustainable development, population change, water quality and human development indices.
Students and staff were generally positive about the experience, although doubts were expressed particularly in relation to the most able students, who, it was felt, might be disadvantaged by the somewhat lower ability of the rest of their group. It has been decided to continue the experiment for at least one further year and to focus staff development on these projects, addressing the concerns about assessment and also to clarify and standardise tutor requirements in terms of work load, skills developed, etc.