Journal of Geography in Higher Education

Volume 20 Number 1 1996


Problem-based Learning and Fieldwork: a better method of preparation?

JOHN BRADBEER, University of Portsmouth, UK

ABSTRACT
This paper suggests that geographers could profitably employ problem-based learning (PBL) in the preparation of students for field classes. Following a brief review of recent issues and contributions to teaching and learning on field classes, the paper examines the characteristics of PBL and its application in other disciplines, especially medicine. It is argued that PBL encourages active and deep learning in students and can readily be applied to fieldwork preparation. A case study of such an application to a second-year undergraduate field class is given.

KEYWORDS
Problem-based learning, fieldwork, active learning, deep learning.

* 1996 Index

*Journal of Geography in Higher Education Cumulative Index


Improving Geography Essay Writing Using Innovative Assessment

RACHEL PAIN & GRAHAM MOWL, University of Northumbria, UK

ABSTRACT
This article reports a project which aims to improve the essay writing of undergraduates on a first-year geography course. The intention was that through self and peer assessment as well as tutor assessment of essays, students would learn about assessment criteria and ways of meeting these. As these techniques are unfamiliar to most students, and past experience shows that they sometimes view them negatively, it was important to stress the value of the project to their learning, to prepare them in a workshop, and to supervise and regulate the assessment process carefully. The project is evaluated from student feedback and suggestions are made for implementation of similar projects in the future.

KEYWORDS
Essay writing skills, self-assessment, peer assessment.

* 1996 Index

*Journal of Geography in Higher Education Cumulative Index


THE EFFECTIVENESS OF STUDENT-AUTHORED FIELD TRAILS AS A MEANS OF ENHANCING GEOMORPHOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION

David L. Higgitt, University of Durham, UK

ABSTRACT
A course developed to enhance students' appreciation of local geomorphology through the construction of interpretative held trails is described. Students work in teams to produce a trail leaflet and designs for information boards. The emphasis on field-based activity, student-led participation and the notion of a target audience differs from traditional geomorphology courses. The extent to which these skills complement other geomorphological teaching is considered. Strategies for achieving a suitable balance between practical and theoretical material and for encouraging teamwork dynamics are identified as important components of course design.

KEYWORDS
Geomorphology, fieldwork, trails, peer assessment, self assessment.

* 1996 Index

*Journal of Geography in Higher Education Cumulative Index


'WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS': ACHIEVING STUDENT-CENTRED LEARNING OBJECTIVES WITH AN UNDERGRADUATE JOURNAL

Susanne M. Charlesworth & lan D.L. Foster, Coventry University, UK

ABSTRACT
We describe an innovative and successful method of empowering physical geography students in the process of learning hydrology. In the last eight years at Coventry University, we have set students the challenge of providing articles for their own journal as part of two modular courses. Although the basic challenge of presenting a paper for 'publication ' has not changed, the organisation and structure of the assessment has evolved in the light of responses to student questionnaires, and in response to rising student numbers which impose resource limitations. This paper describes the evolution of the assignment and the assessment procedure, identifies the educational benefits and evaluates the learning outcomes of this autonomous learning exercise. Although the use of group-centred activities and assessments in higher education has in part offset the pressures of marking loads on teachers, this benefit is rarely perceived by students who generally wish to be assessed on individual rather than group performance. Nevertheless, the opportunity to 'publish' course work in a refereed undergraduate journal has remained as the core component of the assignment since the stimulus to perform at the highest level is clearly recognised and appreciated by students and the exercise can be shown to contain a clear set of educational goals.

KEYWORDS
Physical geography, student-centred learning, group work, student journal.

* 1996 Index

*Journal of Geography in Higher Education Cumulative Index


TRAINING UNDERGRADUATES FOR SELF-DIRECTED FIELD RESEARCH PROJECTS IN PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY: PROBLEMS AND POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

Heather M. Tinsley, Middlesex University, UK

ABSTRACT
Self-directed research projects involving fieldwork are highly valued as part of physical geography Honours degrees as they are intellectually challenging, highly motivating, promote increased self-confidence and provide a vehicle for the demonstration of a wide range of skills. Such projects present increasing problems of implementation. The recent rise in student numbers has resulted in less time being available for supervision, less space in laboratories and more pressure on laboratory consumables. The declining value of student grants and family commitments of mature students may make field seasons away from home unrealistic. Since the adoption of semesterisation there may be particular problems in introducing the research potential of subjects taught in the second semester in time for project selection deadlines. Health and Safety regulations now demand that risk assessments be made for all self-directed research projects and this has generated a need for training in hazard identification procedures. Solutions to these problems are suggested and an example of a second-year module in Soil and Vegetation Systems, designed to address some of these issues, is presented. Its success in training students for self-directed research projects is evaluated.

KEYWORDS
Skills training, research project, dissertation, physical geography, student numbers, local fieldwork.

* 1996 Index

*Journal of Geography in Higher Education Cumulative Index


ORGANISING STUDENT-CENTRED GROUP FIELDWORK AND PRESENTATIONS

Pauline Kneale, University of Leeds, UK

ABSTRACT
A six-week lecture and practical module gives second-year students the opportunity for an integrated team project involving fieldwork, laboratory analysis, data analysis, group report writing, poster production and presentations. In preparation for their dissertations, as much decision making as possible is left with the students. Enthusiasm and effective group interaction are encouraged through two workshops explicitly directed to transferable skills, good practice in poster design and team roles and behaviour.

KEYWORDS
Group work, fieldwork, student empowerment.

* 1996 Index

*Journal of Geography in Higher Education Cumulative Index


DEVELOPING TRANSFERABLE SKILLS: SOME EXAMPLES FROM GEOMORPHOLOGY TEACHING

Derek Mottershead & Steve Suggitt, Edge Hill College of Higher Education, UK

ABSTRACT
Definitions of transferable skills are presented. It is shown how their development in undergraduate programmes can be promoted as a matter of institutional policy and cascade down to individual classes. Two exemplars of transferable skill development in geomorphology classes are presented. Recommendations are made for colleagues who may wish to adapt their own teaching in this direction.

KEYWORDS
Transferable skills, teaching strategies, deep learning, geomorphology.

* 1996 Index

*Journal of Geography in Higher Education Cumulative Index


ARENA SYMPOSIUM: TEACHING ASSISTANTS GRADUATE TEACHING ASSISTANT PROGRAMMES: THE CHALLENGE AHEAD

Louise Crewe, University of Nottingham, UK

ABSTRACT
This paper introduces some of the key issues associated with the introduction of a North American style teaching assistant programme into British higher education institutions. The paper outlines the impetus for change, and raises a series of questions regarding institutional policies towards recruitment, employment, induction and teacher training.

KEYWORDS
Teaching assistants, teaching quality, training.

* 1996 Index

*Journal of Geography in Higher Education Cumulative Index


EXPERIENCES, REFLECTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF A TEACHING ASSISTANT IN THE USA

Mark R. Welford, Georgia Southern University USA

ABSTRACT
The Teaching Assistant (TA) system operating in the United Slates has both advantages and disadvantages to graduate students employed as TAs and undergraduates taught by these TAs. The system develops teaching and communication skills and broadens TA capability understanding and marketability. Discussion and lab sections taught by TAs provide an arena where undergraduates are exposed to everything from simple ideas to difficult ideas that need hands-on help. However, few quality control procedures are employed to determine prospective TAs. Moreover TA training is of limited extent and use. TAs either sink or swim; none the less the vast majority do survive and do an excellent job. A number of measures that any university college or department might employ if they intend to begin employing TAs are recommended: all TAs should attend TA orientation sessions that discuss university-wide TA issues; departments should also create sessions that specially train TAs in how to teach their respective courses; and departments should develop TA evaluation schemes that quickly identify TA problems.

KEYWORDS
Teaching assistant, discussion, lab, evaluations.

* 1996 Index

*Journal of Geography in Higher Education Cumulative Index


'POSTGRADS ON THE EDGE': THE STATUS AND EXPERIENCE OF POSTGRADUATE TEACHING IN GEOGRAPHY DEPARTMENTS IN THE UK

Denis Linehan, University of Nottingham, UK

ABSTRACT
This paper outlines the teaching experiences of postgraduates in British Geography Departments. Based on a survey of 58 departments, it discusses the teaching and training environment in which postgraduates work, and identifies the problems which are emerging from the growing tendency to employ graduate students as teachers. The general absence of formalised training systems for postgraduate teachers emerges as an acute problem, particularly given increasing pressures on teaching quality. This clearly has important implications for teaching Geography in higher education, and impacts not only upon the postgraduates themselves, as they endeavour to juggle the mounting burdens of higher teaching loads alongside pressures to complete and publish, but also upon the quality of undergraduate teaching provision. The issues raised also have important policy implications for institutional managers who, it is argued, must clarify their strategy towards the use of postgraduate teachers and provide appropriate institutional support structures in order to enhance teaching quality for all concerned.

KEYWORDS
Postgraduate teachers, employment quality, training policy.

* 1996 Index

*Journal of Geography in Higher Education Cumulative Index


ISSUES IN THE USE OF TEACHING FELLOWS

Paul White, University of Sheffield, UK

ABSTRACT
This article reflects upon one department's experience of appointing teaching fellows on contracts of up to three years to support lower-level teaching in the department. Departmental, teaching fellows' and undergraduates' perspectives are evaluated, showing that although the system has been successful, a number of issues have emerged suggesting alternative actions. Three unresolved issues concern teaching loads, the legitimacy of roles and research integration.

KEYWORDS
Tutorials, training, career structures.

* 1996 Index

*Journal of Geography in Higher Education Cumulative Index


The Geography Discipline Network would also like to thank Taylor & Francis Ltd for permission to reproduce abstracts from the Journal of Geography in Higher Education

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