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Durham University

Faculty Handbook 2019-2020

Module Description

Please ensure you check the module availability box for each module outline, as not all modules will run each academic year.

Department: Geography


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide a sound theoretical understanding of past environmental change and why it is important
  • To understand the links between modern processes, the evidence for past change and the key driving mechanisms
  • To introduce students to different approaches and methods to reconstruct and evaluate evidence of environmental change
  • To provide practical field, laboratory and analytical skills for understanding research on environmental change


  • Mechanisms of climate change: atmosphere-ocean-ice sheet interactions
  • Dating environmental change
  • Reconstructing glaciation
  • Reconstructing sea level
  • Evidence from the oceans
  • Biological evidence
  • Geochemical evidence
  • Sedimentological and geomorphological evidence
  • Practical class analysing cores from Antarctica
  • Case studies from the UK and abroad
  • Two-day residential fieldtrip based in the North York Moors

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Appreciate the complexity, and identify the major components of the climate-environment system
  • Demonstrate awareness of past patterns of environmental change operating on different spatial and temporal scales
  • Understand and evaluate techniques that can be employed to reconstruct environmental change at a range of scales from local through to regional to global
  • Demonstrate understanding of case studies of environmental change
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Identify and evaluate the different types of evidence that can be used to reconstruct environmental change
  • Understand and analyse key proxies of environmental change
  • Experience different techniques to investigate and interpret records of environmental change
Key Skills:
  • Work as a team and as an individual
  • Define a research problem and produce research findings
  • Present a critical synthesis of a project
  • Interpretation and effective presentation of data
  • Critically evaluate the ideas of others, synthesise observations and articulate a structured and coherent exam essay that provides appropriate examples

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module uses a range of teaching, learning and assessment techniques
  • Lectures will be used to impart basic facts and information necessary to fulfil the aims of this course
  • Fieldwork will provide students with the individual and group working skills and the understanding to describe and interpret environmental change in the field using a range of techniques
  • The multiple choice test will assess student understanding of basic facts and understanding of field evidence illustrating environmental change
  • Practical sessions will cover techniques and methods for interpreting records of environmental change
  • In the latter part of the module students will complete a group research project
  • The group presentation in one of the tutorials and final individual poster submission will test students understanding of a specific research question in the field of environmental change and their ability to communicate their findings
  • The examination will be used to test student understanding of basic facts and knowledge and their critical awareness

Teaching Methods and Contact Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Approx. weekly 2 hours 32
Lecture (fieldtrip H&S briefing) 1 2 hours 2
Tutorials 3 Terms 1 and 2 30 minutes 1.5
Tutorial (project feedback) 1 Term 2 30 minutes 0.5
Practicals 1 Term 1 3 hours 3
Multiple choice test 1 1 30 minutes 0.5
Fieldwork 2 days Term 1 (weekend) 8 hours per day 16
Preparation and Reading 144.5
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Exam Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen exam 2 hours 100%
Component: Poster submission (individual) Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Individual poster submission (1 page A3) 100%
Component: Multiple choice test Component Weighting: 10%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Multiple choice 30 minute timed test based on fieldtrip teaching 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative feedback is provided throughout the module via discussion of topics during the lectures, field weekend, practicals and tutorials. Ahead of the summative assessment, formative feedback is made at a group level to the projects during a feedback tutorial. In the following weeks the project is completed on an individual basis.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University

If you have a query about a specific module or degree programme, please contact the appropriate department.

If you have a question about Durham's modular degree programmes, please visit our FAQ webpage.  If you have a question about modular programmes that is not covered by the FAQ, or a query about the on-line Faculty Handbook, please contact us using the Comments and Questions form below.