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BSc Hons Physical Geography

Mode of Study: Full Time Department: Lancaster Environment Centre
UCAS Code: F840 Duration/Length: 3 Year(s)
QAA Subject Benchmark: Geography Director of Studies: Dr MR James
Total Credit Points: 360 Credit Points Year 2: 120
Credit Points Year 3: 120

Syllabus Rules and Pre-requisites

  • PartI
  • The student must take the following modules:
  • The student must take 5 modules from the following group:
  • PartII (Year 2)
  • The student must take the following modules:
  • The student must take 5 modules from the following group:
  • PartII (Year 3)
  • The student must take the following modules:
  • The student must take 6 modules from the following group:

Educational Aims: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

  • Physical Geography is the scientific study of the physical and environmental aspects of geography. It enables students to develop a broad understanding of environmental processes, covering areas including biogeography, geomorphology, hydrology and climatology. Physical Geography at Lancaster is a very interactive degree, combining theory and a lot of field and laboratory-based studies aimed at developing students' knowledge of physical environmental processes, their spatial structure and temporal evolution. There are opportunities to study a wide range of topics, including: glacial systems; lakes, rivers and estuaries, environmental remote sensing, atmospheric science, environmental radioactivity, geological hazards, global change biology, sustainable agriculture and quaternary environmental change.

    The programme aims to: 

    • Provide a flexible but structured training in Physical Geography which will provide students with knowledge and understanding appropriate for subject-specific graduate employment;
    • Develop key transferable skills to prepare students for more general graduate employment;
    • Develop the intellectual and practical skills necessary for progression to postgraduate research and training;
    • Encourage academic curiosity which will prepare students for lifelong learning;
    • Offer a choice of modules which will give students experience across the spectrum of Physical Geography;
    • Offer students the opportunity to conduct a substantial research project.

Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

  • Graduates with Honours will be able to:

    • Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of key subject areas in Physical Geography. Depending on module options this will include an understanding of: Past environments and their reconstruction, Freshwater and marine environments and processes, Glacial environments and processes, Geological and volcanological processes, Biogeochemistry and soil science, Atmospheric and climate science, Biogeographical and ecological processes, Agricultural crop science, Environmental remote sensing;
    • Synthesise and critically evaluate information from a variety of sources;
    • Create, analyse and interpret textual, cartographic and numerical data;
    • Assess the merits of contrasting theories, explanations and policies in geography;
    • Design and prepare project proposals and analyse, problem-solve and make decisions;
    • Construct a reasoned argument and use intellectual integrity;
    • Plan, execute and report on geographical research in field, laboratory and desk-based settings, using the technical skills needed for this, including use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and a range of other quantitative and qualitative techniques and tools appropriate to their choice of modules and research projects;
    • Carry out risk assessments and list appropriate safety precautions associated with practical or project work;
    • Identify ethical issues in geographical debates, as a citizen and researcher;
    • Work independently and as part of a team;
    • Use relevant information and communication technology and demonstrate effective asynchronous (e.g. written) and synchronous (e.g. oral) communication skills;
    • Demonstrate an ability to learn new, diverse and complex material;
    • Take responsibility for, and reflect on one's learning, at university and later in life.

Learning and Teaching Strategies and Methods: Knowledge, Understanding, Skills

  • The Teaching, Learning and Assessment Strategy in the Department of Geography is consistent with, and informed by, the University's Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy, in particular with Aim 1 (well-designed curricula), Aim 2 (skills for careers), Aim 3 (using our research expertise in our teaching), Aim 4 (using a variety of teaching and assessment methods) and Aim 5 (maintaining high standards). 

    Teaching is hierarchical with a broad first year, becoming progressively deeper and more specialised in years two and three, depending on the student's choice of modules. Research-led teaching (provided by research-active staff) allows new developments in the field to be incorporated into the taught programme. The degree programme uses a wide range of teaching methods appropriate for teaching the subject and skills, and of assessing the students' progress in achieving the intended learning outcomes. These methods include: laboratory or field work; theoretical and practical work; library and IT work along with individual or team work. The academic tutor system supports students in all these aspects of study, by providing discussion of feedback, and guidance on learning strategies.

    In summary the following teaching methods apply:

    Subject specific knowledge and understanding is developed through a combination of: lectures; field work and practical sessions; coursework exercises; tutorial discussions; the close links between staff research and year 3 options; the integration of advanced fieldwork into final-year modules and undertaking reading from a range of literature sources. 

    Intellectual skills are developed as follows:

    • Analytical, critical, synthesising and evaluative skills are developed through: the assessment criteria and processes; the research-active staff; discussions in field or practical sessions and seminars; the dissertation and through engaging with the primary literature.
    • Skills in independence, self-management, problem solving and research skills are developed primarily through the dissertation and encouraged through coursework feedback.
    • Interpretation of quantitative and qualitative data are developed through field and practical classes; coursework assignments and the dissertation. 

    Practical and field skills are developed as follows: 

    • Test, measurement and evaluation skills are developed through lectures, field and practical work and the dissertation. 
    • Experimental and risk/ethical assessment skills are developed through the dissertation and field and practical work.
    • Numerical, textual and cartographic skills are developed through practical classes and coursework assignments. 

    Key transferable skills are embedded into core Geography modules to show how these skills can be used and how the study of geography is illuminated by their use. Additionally, skills-focused teaching is used in Part 1 tutorials, the compulsory skills modules in year 2, and training in how to produce a dissertation. 

    • Communication skills are developed through instruction and practice in writing reports, essays, the dissertation and giving presentations.
    • ICT skills are developed throughout the course for accessing, working on and sharing materials, completing coursework, and communication.
    • Information retrieval skills are developed in coursework and the dissertation.
    • Numeracy, data manipulation and presentation skills are developed through practical classes, report writing and the dissertation.
    • Group work skills are developed through field and practical classes. 
    • Employability skills are promoted through the Profiling and Career Guidance exercises that promote reflection and career management.

Assessment Strategy and Methods: Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

  • The department's assessment strategy is to utilise a wide variety of different forms of assessment, to ensure that all students encounter a range of assessment methods during their degree, and to ensure that the assessment methods used are appropriate to the aims and learning outcomes of individual modules. Both formative and summative assessment methods are used.

    In summary:

    Knowledge and understanding is assessed through unseen examinations consisting of mostly essay type questions, but also including short answer and data analysis questions. Coursework assignments, which include: essays, practical assignments, field/laboratory reports, oral presentations and the dissertation also test students' knowledge and understanding. The relative weight of these components varies according to the type of module and its intended outcomes.

    Intellectual skills are assessed by a combination of coursework assignments, practical assignments, laboratory/field reports, dissertation work and written examinations. Students are expected to learn from previous assessment, and receive substantial feedback on the intellectual content and communication skills aspects of their coursework.

    Field courses and laboratory/practical-based modules are usually assessed entirely by coursework such as, field or laboratory reports and the dissertation. Computing and numerical skills are additionally assessed through practical-class assignments. 

    Transferable skills such as written and oral presentation skills, graphical/cartographic presentation of data, general IT skills and information gathering are assessed by a variety of summative and formative assessments, e.g. essay writing, practical/field reports, oral presentations, practical-class assignments, participation in tutorials, feedback on essay plans and drafts and the dissertation.

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