Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title A Novel Technique To Provide Basic Fieldwork Skills To Large Numbers of First Year Undergraduates
Originator Darren P.M. Comber & Alistair D. Headley
Department Department of Environmental Science, University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD7 1DP
Tel. +44 (0)1274 385398/384209
Fax +44 (0)1274 384231
Email and

This initiative set out to improve the provision of basic fieldwork skills to first year Environmental Science students arriving at Bradford from disparate backgrounds, and to encourage independent learning. This allows more investigative projects to be undertaken during the main residential field course later in the year, avoiding using expensive time at the field centre to introduce field techniques.

Students are introduced to basic field skills through a six hour lecture series and allied practical exercises based around the campus. These involve the use of maps and compasses, levelling and mapping. The description of soil and geological sections, vegetation physiognomy and streamflow measurement is also demonstrated.

In order to practise these skills, a series of seven exercises have been designed around these skills, and are undertaken during the following weekend on Ilkley Moor, c. 15 km outside Bradford. Equipment is set up on the moor at set locations, and the students, provided with a base map and corresponding grid references, are given the responsibility of finding and then completing the exercises in groups. Staff are located at each site for safety and to provide guidance.

Each group is expected to organise transport to the site and to ensure that they follow a set itinerary in order to cover all exercises in the allotted time. This involves using maps and compasses to navigate between exercises, and encourages teamwork in order to complete the tasks within the allotted time.

Assessment is via the field notebook, ensuring that students are making sufficiently detailed notes in the field, and writing them up as soon as they arrive back at Bradford.

The exercise has been positively received by both staff and students, who are in agreement that the exercise:


active learning
data ownership
fieldwork skills
group work

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Page created 9 March 1998
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