Extant literature on professions suggests that there is a readily recognisable set of characteristics of a profession, but this is a contested issue, particularly in the area of recognising the professionalism of those who teach and support learning in higher education. In the UK, the Institute for Learning and Teaching was set up as a result of the Dearing report to recognise the experience and expertise of those working in these areas. The ILT offers a model for professionalising teaching, to which continuous professional development (CPD) is key. Geographers and those who teach related subjects are already in the vanguard of this activity.
Professionalism, higher education, accreditation, learning communities, National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS), excellence, Institute for Learning and Teaching (ILT).
A problem-solving approach to the teaching of research design in physical geography is introduced. Focusing on the study of the effectiveness of a local river restoration scheme, students are empowered with the responsibility for and control of their learning by means of group discussions and decision making in a series of workshops. With carefully staged guidance by tutors, students devise research questions and execute their project, analysing data collected on a field day. Although students may find this approach to be challenging and demanding, they acquire research experience and develop key skills, such as visualisation of problems and capacity for logical thought, aided by critical self-appraisal of their performance. Such an approach is particularly relevant today because of subject benchmarking skills. Developing transferable skills, such as initiative and teamwork, valued by employers also promotes self-confidence. Using a case study, this paper considers the experiences of students and staff with this approach, identifying its strengths and weaknesses, and offers possible options for its development.
Research design, physical geography, workshops, student empowerment.
KAREN SCHMELZKOPF, Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey, USA
This article outlines an interdisciplinary course in the geography of tourism. It examines interdisciplinarity and its relationship to geography and the study of tourism, and presents an outline of the course, its conceptual basis, its structure and its goals. It argues that participatory learning and problem-solving activities are crucial to successful outcomes, and that, as a result, interdisciplinary courses can be instrumental in motivating students to become involved in social practice.
Interdisciplinarity, tourism, social practice, participatory learning.
STEVE GASKIN, LTSN Subject Centre for Geography, Earth and Environmental
Sciences, University of Plymouth, UK
RAY HALL, Queen Mary College, University of London, UK
First impressions count, and the . rst few weeks at university for the new student are critical. What happens at this time is crucial in terms of the messages that different experiences convey to the student about learning and teaching in the subject. Moreover, negative first impressions of university life are known to influence the decision of some students who withdraw. So, how can staff go about making positive impressions in the first few weeks of term? This paper describes a novel orienteering exercise devised by the Department of Geography at Queen Mary, University of London. The paper presents results from a focus-group method used to evaluate the exercise. Results obtained from the focus-group evaluation demonstrate that there are many benefits from the exercise for the new student, with ‘teamwork’ and ‘meeting new people’ being the most important. The experience reported in this paper is likely to be transferable to other geography departments and programmes of study worldwide.
Induction, transition, teamwork, evaluation, focus groups, nominal group technique.
DAVID LIVINGSTONE, University of Portsmouth, UK Hants
KENNETH LYNCH, Kingston University, UK
This article compares two experiences of group-based student projects in a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) degree and in Geography degree modules. The two authors adopted group projects from similar motivations, and used available materials to guide them through this process. Subsequently, they have come to reflect on the experience and to examine the theoretical dimensions of such an approach in more detail. There seems to be a discrepancy between the literature, which emphasises a growing interest in the socio-educational value of group-based and active learning, and the concerns voiced by both students and academics regarding the practical implications of such approaches. Analysis of grades and questionnaires tends to support the literature and belie the criticisms, which the authors see as ‘myths’, possibly motivated by a defensive attitude to the whole learning process. The conclusions are that, if care is not taken in the design and execution of such projects, then the problems that may ensue can reinforce the ‘myths’. However, if carefully and appropriately designed and managed, team-based learning is a valuable experience.
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