"Very thought provoking and inspiring" was one delegate's evaluation of the two-day FDTL National Geography Conference held at the University of Warwick in September. Over 120 geographers and educational developers participated in the conference on "Improving teaching, learning and assessment in geography", making it one of the largest geography in higher education conferences ever held in the UK. The conference was organised on behalf of eleven geography-related FDTL projects and the CTI Centre for Geography, Geology and Meteorology by Professor Mick Healey and Dr Phil Gravestock of the Geography Discipline Network (GDN), based in the Geography and Environmental Management Research Unit (GEMRU) at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education.
Professor Ron Cooke, Vice-Chancellor of the University of York and Chair of HEFCE's Learning and Teaching Committee, was the Guest speaker. He outlined HEFCE's learning and teaching strategy and told the delegates that "the balance of teaching and research has moved too far towards research". He proceeded to encourage delegates to act together to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the establishment of ILTHE and subject networks and to join the debate about standards, skills and technology. The conference provided plenty of evidence that geographers were already working together successfully to develop and disseminate good practice in learning and teaching.
Dr Rita Gardner, Director and Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers chaired the conference. Key note talks were presented by Professor Mick Healey (Cheltenham and Gloucester), Professor Graham Gibbs (Open), Professor Ken Foote (Texas at Austin), HMI Peter Smith (DfEE), Dr Iain Hay (Flinders) and Professor Alan Jenkins (Oxford Brookes). The main body of the conference was taken up by twenty-one workshops, run by the GDN and the other FDTL projects, and a resources fair.
The first eight GDN Guides on Good Practice in the Teaching and Learning of Geography were launched by Janet Trotter, Director of Cheltenham and Gloucester CHE, at the Journal of Geography in Higher Education sherry reception. The Guides were written by geographers and educational developers in the GDN consortium of nine old and new universities and colleges of higher education. The Guides are currently being used by the GDN Team in running 50 department-based workshops. Although most of the examples and case studies in the Guides are from geography, many of the ideas they contain are relevant to staff teaching other subjects.
To judge by the comments on the anonymous evaluation sheets: "an excellent experience", "a very worthwhile conference", "convivial and stimulating", the delegates thought the conference was a great success. As one said, "more please".