GDN Title

Key Skills in Geography in Higher Education: Final Report

April 2000

Geography and Environmental Management Research Unit, Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education, Francis Close Hall, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ

 
DfEE Logo HEQE Logo

 

1   The Organisaion of the Project and the Methodology Used
1.1   Organisation of the project
1.2   Methodology Used by the project
1.3   Aims of the project
2   The Results of the Project
2.1   Tabular summary of results
2.2   Summary
3   Dissemination and Evaluation
3.1   Methods of dissemination
3.2   Methods of evaluation
3.3   Take up and use of products
4   Lessons Learnt
4.1   General
4.2   Transferable elements
5   Plans to Build of the Project and its Outcomes
5.1   Subject Centre for Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
5.2   HILP annual conference
5.3   Resource database
5.4   Follow-up survey
Appendix 1   Comments from the National Seminars

 

1  The Organisation of the Project and the Methodology Used

1.1  Organisation of the Project

The project consisted of a consortium team of nine higher education institutions:
Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education (lead site)

Professor Mick Healey (GDN Director)
Dr Phil Gravestock (Project Officer)
Claire Reid (Assistant Project Officer)
Dr Jacky Birnie
Dr Tim Hall

College of St Mark and St John Sue Burkill
Derry Corey

Lancaster University

Dr Gordon Clark
Terry Wareham

Liverpool John Moores University

Professor Vince Gardiner
Middlesex University Ifan Shepherd
Manchester University Professor Michael Bradford
Professor Clive Agnew

Plymouth University

Professor Brian Chalkley
University College Northampton Dr Ian Livingstone
Professor Hugh Matthews

University of Surrey Roehampton

Dr Karel Hughes

The project, which ran from 1 May 1998 to 30 April 2000, had the support of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG), the Conference of Heads of Geography in HEIs and the Journal of Geography in Higher Education, an internationally refereed journal concerned with issues of teaching and learning in higher education and edited by members of the team.

An Advisory Panel was set up for the project, which acted as a 'critical friend'. The members of this panel were chosen to represent expertise in a range of careers relevant to geography and/or educational development. The role of the Advisory Panel was to:

  1. assist with the evaluation (formative and at the end of the programme);
  2. give general advice to the project;
  3. provide expertise and specific advice;
  4. help the team meet the deadlines described in the timetable and make any necessary adjustments;
  5. review the budget at regular intervals;
  6. approve the final report;
  7. represent the project through members' various networks;
  8. monitor progress during the project and assess the 8 Guides.

Members of the Advisory Panel were:

1.2  Methodology Used by the Project

The main purpose of the project was to help geographers in higher education institutions (HEIs) in making explicit the teaching of key skills, which have largely formed part of the 'hidden curriculum'.

Two national surveys were completed at the beginning of the project:

The information from the two surveys was used to inform a series of Guides; seven of these Guides are for staff in geography in higher education, one is for students in, or about to enter, a HEI to study geography. Each Guide contains case studies which provide an illustration to staff in geography in HEIs as to how they could adapt their procedures to improve the provision of key skills training. All the case studies featured in the Guides are to be added to the Resource Database hosted by the GDN Web pages (http://www.chelt.ac.uk/gdn).

To help to embed these case studies, and the key pedagogic issues arising from the Guides, the project team facilitated ten days of departmental workshop/advice. The project also organised a series of three national seminars to disseminate material from the Guides; the second of these seminars was held as part of the RGS-IBG Annual Conference, in order to attract geographers who may not have been to previous GDN events. Thirty two delegates attended the first seminar, held at the headquarters of the RGS-IBG; over forty attended the seminar held at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference; and twenty five delegates attended the final seminar at University College Northampton.

This methodology was based upon a previous GDN project, funded by HEFCE's Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL), which published a series of ten guides to 'Good Teaching, Learning and Assessment Practices in Geography', and which ran fifty department-based workshops, based around the Guides. Due to the success of this project it was decided to adopt a similar methodology for the DfEE project.

It was found that the department-based workshops contributed largely to the dissemination of case study material into departments. An important aspect of both projects is that the information was produced by geographers for geographers, in order to reduce the impact of the 'not invented here' syndrome.

1.3  Aims of the Project

The aims of the project were:

  1. To identify the key skills geography students possess at entry to Higher Education (HE) and the extent to which key skills are taught in geography in HE.
  2. To develop models of good practice for embedding the learning, teaching, practice and assessment of these key skills in the geography curriculum.
  3. To disseminate the outcomes of the project to the 80 geography departments in England and to the wider national and international academic community through:
    1. the production of eight Guides (seven for staff and one for students) covering the main key skill areas;
    2. the identification and addition of case study materials about incorporating key skills in the curriculum to the Geography Discipline Network (GDN) World Wide Web (WWW) pages;
    3. the delivery of three national workshops on different key skills themes for geographers, careers officers and educational developers;
    4. the provision of ten days of advice and workshops to individual departments wishing to develop the ways in which key skills can be incorporated in their curriculum.

The eight Guides produced by the project are:

  1. Key Skills: Teaching and Learning for Transfer (Ifan Shepherd)
  2. Assessing and Recording a Skills-based Curriculum (Ian Livingstone and Hugh Matthews)
  3. Improving Students' Communication Skills (Sue Burkill, Derry Corey, Mick Healey)
  4. Improving Students' Numeracy Skills (Clive Agnew)
  5. Improving Students' Team and Personal Skills (Michael Bradford)
  6. Improving Students' Problem-solving and Thinking Skills (Vince Gardiner and Karel Hughes)
  7. Improving Students' Skills Through Work-based Learning (Brian Chalkley)
  8. Geography@University: Making the Most of Your Geography Degree and Courses (Gordon Clark and Terry Wareham)

2  The Results of the Project

2.1  Tabular summary of results

Objectives
Actual deliverables and outcomes
Variations from original and reasons for change
To identify the key skills geography students possess at entry to Higher Education (HE) and the extent to which key skills are taught in geography. Two reports were completed at the beginning of the project.
  • Hall, T. (1999) Key Skills Teaching in Geography in Higher Education: A Survey Report;
  • Birnie, J. (1999) Key Skills of Students on Entry to Geography in Higher Education.

The information from the reports was used to inform the content of the Guides.

The project reports are available on the GDN Web pages (http://www.chelt.ac.uk/gdn).

 
To develop models of good practice for embedding the learning, teaching, practice and assessment of these key skills in the geography curriculum.

Models of good/effective practice have been discussed and developed in the series of Guides produced by the project. These have been written within a geographical context so that they can be readily adapted by geographers in HE departments.

The models of good/effective practice have come from the geography community; this has encouraged ownership of the Guides by the main target audience.

 
To disseminate the outcomes of the project to the 80 geography departments in England and to the wider national and international academic community through:    
  • the production of eight Guides (seven for staff and one for students) covering the main key skill areas;
The Guide for students 'Geography@University' was published in January 2000. The other Guides, aimed at geography staff in HE, have been desk-top published and will be available at the end of April/beginning of May. There was a delay in the publication of the Guides; this was partly due to the publication of the draft benchmarking statement for geography (Autumn 1999) - it was decided that the Guides should address issues arising from this document.
  • the identification and addition of case study materials about incorporating key skills in the curriculum to the Geography Discipline Network (GDN) World Wide Web (WWW) pages;
Several case studies have been identified as part of the project, and have been included in the series of seven Guides for geography staff in HE. These case studies will be added to the GDN resource database.  
  • the delivery of three national workshops on different key skills themes for geographers, careers officers and educational developers;

Three national workshops were held in 1999/2000:

The workshops focused on topics discussed in the Guides, and enabled the participants to discuss issues arising from them.

(See Appendix 1 for participants' comments from the national workshops.)

 
  • the provision of ten days of advice and workshops to individual departments wishing to develop the ways in which key skills can be incorporated in their curriculum.

The following institutions have benefited from advice/workshop relating to the project:

  • Coventry University;
  • Edge Hill University College;
  • Glasgow Caledonian University;
  • Glasgow University;
  • Strathclyde University;
  • Nottingham Trent University;
  • University College Northampton;
  • University College London;
  • University of Derby*;
  • University of Wolverhampton.

In addition, a workshop on 'The School - HE interface: a perspective on key skills' was given at the Geographical Association conference (April 2000).

* Two workshops were given at the University of Derby: one based within the Division of Geography; the other as part of a careers day for undergraduate students.

The workshops were run within the last two months of the project. It was hoped to have completed some advice/workshops days before this date, but the delay in completion of the draft Guides, around which the workshops were based, resulted in a later start than originally anticipated.

The project arranged several additional workshops, which unfortunately did not take place. This was often due to pressures of teaching, staff absence due to fieldtrips, and being unable to find a mutually suitable date for the facilitator and host institution.

Establish a panel of geography graduates.

The project originally planned to set up an alumni 'panel' of geography graduates to examine the key skills they currently use in their employment and to identify what key skills they thought they had learnt/not learnt during their degree courses.

The intention was to select a mixture of geography graduate who were in a range of occupations, and who had graduated between 1-8 years ago.

The project encountered difficulties and barriers when trying to set up this 'panel'. One of the barriers to gaining this information has been the Data Protection Act, and the reluctance of institutions to release private information about their graduates. Another barrier has been the change in style of delivery of degree courses over recent years, particularly:

  • the change in many institutions towards a modular-style course, which does not encourage as much informal contact between staff and students compared with the older style 'single-subject' degrees;
  • the fact that class sizes have increased considerably over recent years.

2.2  Summary

3  Dissemination and Evaluation

The principal audience for dissemination of the materials resulting from the project are:

However, several other audiences are benefiting from the outcomes of the project including:

3.1  Methods of dissemination

3.2  Methods of evaluation

Each Guide was peer reviewed by two subject specialists from the project team, two members of the Advisory Panel and the Project Officer and Project Manager. In addition, the Guide aimed at students, 'Geography@University', was reviewed by six undergraduate students at Lancaster University and two postgraduate students at Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education.

Participants at the national seminars and department workshop/advice days were asked to complete an evaluation form for each event (see Appendix 1 for participants' comments from the national seminars).

3.3  Take up and use of products

It has not been possible to assess the take up and use of the products during the life of the project. The project team at the Cheltenham & Gloucester College of HE intend to carry out a follow-up survey several months after the department workshop/advice days to assess their impact on individuals and departments.

4  Lessons Learnt

4.1  General

4.2  Transferable elements

5  Plans to Build on the Project and its Outcomes

The GDN is continuing with a number of initiatives, and the project staff will be in place to answer queries and supply products relating to the key skills project.

5.1  Subject Centre for Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Professor Mick Healey, GDN Director, is the Geography Advisor for the new Subject Centre for Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences. The Centre Director, Professor Brian Chalkley, was part of the project team. The GDN will be developing pedagogic resources for the Subject Centre. The Centre will be able to disseminate information regarding the outcomes and products of the project.

5.2  HILP Annual Conference

The Hertfordshire Integrated Learning Project (HILP) plan to run an annual conference on key skills, at which the GDN project will participate.

5.3  Resource database

The GDN will continue to collect and disseminate case studies relevant to key skills from geography, earth and environmental sciences. These will be added to the Resource Database on the GDN Web pages.

5.4  Follow-up survey

The project team at Cheltenham & Gloucester College of HE will undertake a follow-up survey of departments which hosted one of the ten days of departmental workshops/advice, in order to determine the impact of the workshops and the Guides.

Appendix 1

Comments from the National Seminars


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