Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title An Approach to Resource-based Learning in the Geography Department, University of Auckland
Originator Margaret Goldstone
Department Geography Department, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
Tel. +64 9 373 7599 extns 8465/5923
Fax +64 9 373 7434

The Problem

Making the initial transition into comprehensive resource-based learning can present difficulties for course co-ordinators and students alike. It takes time and thought to develop the sort of resources which are really robust enough to stand alone, so a way of coping with the transition is to provide resource packages alongside the more traditional lecture-based course, so that students who don't absorb material well in lectures have a chance to review the material on their own.

A possible solution

It doesn't have to be complex. In the Stage 1 Geography papers at the University of Auckland the course guide includes a weekly study guide to the resources available. It briefly outlines the theme for week, provides a list of readings, and, most importantly, gives a series keywords which relate to the theme. These may be found in the texts, or in the Dictionaries of Human/Physical Geography which are one of the main prescribed texts for the course. Elsewhere in the guide there is an outline of the laboratory for the week, with any background material which would be useful to have to hand before the lab. All the readings are in the reserve section of the library, so all students have reasonable access.

When students fail to keep up it is often because they miss a section through illness or other reasons, or when they fail to understand a part of the material and don't move on beyond that. Keywords have proved to be a powerful way of getting around this problem and we encourage them to not only learn the definitions but to look at how, when, where, what and why that term may apply or be applied. We find that once they have worked with the vocabulary their understanding of the texts and lectures improves immensely, and less students give up. It also has the advantage that students who don't have good study skills when they start are provided with a fairly mechanical way of initially getting into the material, and developing good habits.

Resource implications

The guides require quite a lot of work before the course starts, both to get them written and printed, and to make sure that the resources are available in library collections. It means that lectures have to be written, or at least planned in some detail before the course starts, rather than as required, but we are fortunate in having a Senior Tutor attached to the first year programme who co-ordinates all the academic tasks associated with the course. The development of the course material is part of her role.

This system has put the responsibility for understanding the material into the student's hands and greatly reduced the number of students seeking assistance with the obvious reduction in the time spent by academic staff with individual students.


Resource-based learning
Study guide

Keywords can be used to search for specific topics
Abstracts are also listed by Originator

Resource Database Home Page

Page created 24 January 1998
Page updated 2 October 1999
Database pages maintained by Phil Gravestock