Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title A Research-led Curriculum
Originator Dr Dave Martin
Department Department of Geography, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ
Tel. +44 (0)1703 593808
Fax +44 (0)1703 593729
Email D.J.Martin@soton.ac.uk

The Southampton department has as one of its strategic objectives 'to maintain excellence and innovation in research-led teaching'. The department's strong commitment to research excellence has been incorporated deliberately into its curriculum planning so as to ensure that the full benefits of the symbiosis between research and teaching are achieved. Students are repeatedly exposed to front-line research ideas, and are encouraged to share in the stimulus of research. The general teaching structure is of a common first year programme undertaken by all single honours geography students, followed by option-based second and third years which provide a flexible series of pathways leading to both specialist and generalist courses.

Although the first year of the course necessarily provides a broad-based geographical education, opportunities are sought to bring students into contact with departmental research - both by drawing on current research as exemplars in basic courses and, for example, the new Wessex fieldcourse introduced in 1997 during which students carry out project work relating to active departmental research in the local region, such as hydrological work in the New Forest Research Catchment. In the second and third years there is an emphasis on option courses which are closely aligned with the department's six research themes, and which are frequently taught by small teams of staff from within each theme. Many of these courses are strongly linked to current research, for example courses in GIS and spatial data handling in which the computer practicals are directly derived from recent staff research projects in population modelling and geostatistics. Postgraduate students are actively involved in fieldwork, practical and seminar classes, providing further opportunities for students to build bridges between class-based foundation teaching and current departmental research. The undergraduate research project is seen as a key component of the Southampton course (worth 16% of the final degree), with students encouraged to undertake projects aligned with the department's research themes. This provides exciting possibilities for final year students to undertake their research alongside staff and postgraduates, such as the Glaciation group's expeditions to Alaska in 1995 and Greenland in 1996. Close links with departmental research also allows students to take advantage of facilities such as the Wolfson-funded laboratories for GIS, remote sensing, quaternary and fluvial research.

Keywords:

Research-led teaching
Research project
Research skills


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Page created 22 December 1997
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