Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap


  • None.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The aim of this module is to provide an overview of the methods used in risk research, and training in the generic skills that risk research requires, including risk communication and public engagement. Its purpose is to provide generic skills on science, media and communication as well as specific methodological training. Thus, this module will provide a high level overview of the natural, engineering and social science skills used in risk research as well as specific training in communication skills, including written and oral communications and public engagement in relation to risk.


  • There are two interrelated blocks to the course
  • The first block focusses on theoretical aspects of risk communication, including communication theory; risk perception; hazard uncertainty; and the different ways in which 'knowledge' can be produced to improve our understanding and management of risk. This block will also consider the role the media play in communicating and (re-)framing risk, and how research design and risk communication can be most effective when considered together.
  • The second block is more practical, providing experience of developing effective risk communication strategies. This block will consider how we communicate risk in 'real-world' situations, both to other risk practitioners and the wider 'consumers' of risk research; how this changes as hazard events occur and evolve; and the difficulties involved in risk communication under time, political and financial pressures.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will understand the issues surrounding how risk is communicated as well as its relationship to the practice of research and the inherent issues that result.
  • Students will understand the range of methods used to understand risk and their relationship to the core concepts introduced in the Understanding Risk module.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will understand the critical role played by problem framing in researching risk and the ethical questions that result from different kinds of framings and methods.
  • Students will be able to develop different strategies for researching and communicating risk, according to the issue being investigated and, in particular, in relation to hazard and risk uncertainty and how this affects our ability to develop effective risk communication strategies.
  • Students will be able to evaluate the merits and disadvantages of different forms of risk communication as a means of developing sensible risk communication plans.
Key Skills:
  • Written communication
  • Oral presentation

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

  • Each student has 22 hours of contact time and 128 hours of independent study. Contact hours comprise of sessions relating to the two interrelated blocks noted above:
  • The first block has 4 x 2-hour lectures/seminars and 1 x 2-hour workshop (focusing on knowledge production). This block will be examined by oral presentation (podcast; example podcasts from previous years will be made available to students. Where appropriate, students can obtain further assistance via the University English Language Centre).
  • The second block has 4 x 2-hour lectures/seminars, 1 x 2-hour workshop (on oral presentation skills) and 2 x 1-hour tutorials. This block will be examined by a reflective essay, which will ask students to draw on their experiences of communicating risk on the course, as well as relevant academic literature.
  • Self-directed learning will be supported by reading lists, allowing students to build on the topics and skills highlighted during the lecture course. In addition, students will be expected to work individually and in groups to prepare for specific sessions during the course. The content and nature of these sessions will be clearly communicated to students.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Discussion Based lectures/seminars 8 1 2 hours 16
Workshops 2 1 2 hours 4
Tutorials 2 1 1 hour 2
Self-directed learning and preparation for formative oral presentations 128
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Reflective essay Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Reflective essay on experiences of risk research and communication 2000 words 100% Yes
Component: Oral presentation Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Oral presentation (podcast on media influence on risk perception) 4 minutes 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

There is one formative assignment for this module. Students will submit a topic and list of themes and theories (<1 page of A4) that they will discuss during their summative podcast assessment. Students will be provided with written feedback on these topics/themes. Oral formative feedback during tutorials regarding written work to prepare for the reflective essay. NB: formative work is a compulsory part of this module.

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