Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Tied Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham
Tied to L702
Tied to L704
Tied to F800
Tied to F803
Tied to LMV0
Tied to LMV1
Tied to LMV2
Tied to LMVA
Tied to LMVP
Tied to CFG0
Tied to FGC0
Tied to CFG1
Tied to CFG2


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide broad foundation knowledge of the scientific principles of Physical Geography
  • To deliver preliminary training in understanding the collection of observational data pertaining to Earth surface processes and environmental change


  • The module focuses on a broad range of fundamental concepts, processes and techniques that are critical to the understanding of physical geography, particularly Earth surface processes and environmental change. This introduces students to scientific principles that are based in physics, chemistry, ecology, and geology. The module assumes no prior knowledge of the fundamentals of concepts such as the physics of materials, rocks and their properties and structures, water and sediment chemistry. Each theme will be introduced in the context of how it has contributed to physical geography research. Overall, the module will demonstrate the wider significance of the discipline of physical geography, and the many potential roles of a physical geographer.
  • Indicative content:
  • Chemistry for physical geographers
  • The physics of solid materials
  • The physics of fluids and gasses
  • Fundamentals of meteorology and climatology
  • Geology for physical geographers
  • Principles of biogeography
  • Research methods for physical geographers

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the basic scientific principles behind thphysical geography
  • Apply appropriate scientific laws to problem-solving in physical geography
  • Demonstrate an understanding of fundamental process-form relationships in Earth surface processes and environmental change
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
  • Identify and assess the geological controls on Earth surface and environmental change
  • Critically assess the physics and chemistry of climate and weather
  • Identify and interpret data sources relevant to contemporary Earth challenges
  • Analyse process-form relationships and patterns in Earth surface systems using fundamental scientific principles
  • Summarize and present scientific information
Key Skills:
  • Identify patterns and interpret data
  • Undertake evidence-based appraisals of Earth surface processes
  • Present logical written arguments
  • Solve problems and make reasoned decisions

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

  • Lectures are used to convey the key facts and concepts and to contribute to building a broad knowledge and understanding. They will be supported by presentations and video clips, together with some participatory activities. Reading lists will supplement the lectures and provide a range of general and case study-specific sources.
  • Discussion sessions will provide summaries of the key themes covered in each lecture. In these Discussion sessions, students will have the opportunity to ask questions to teaching staff, consolidating and clarifying important points and allowing links to other teaching blocks on the module to be explored.
  • Practicals will provide experience in identifying, processing and interpreting common data sources. These will relate directly to themes and concepts presented in lectures. Assessment of the practicals, both formative and summative, requires the students to summarise their findings in the form of a short scientific report. The aim is to develop key skills in physical geography, including critical reading of contemporary literature, analysis of scientific data sets, and debating of scientific theory. This approach tests the factual understanding of the class-based exercises, whilst also providing valuable experience in how to structure and present short scientific summaries such as an abstract or an executive summary.
  • Seminars will cover broad concepts and techniques, as an introduction to the breadth of approaches used in physical geography research and provides a background to techniques that will feature in Level 2 and Level 3 modules and dissertation research.
  • The unseen examination will require students to demonstrate their knowledge of the fundamental principles underpinning the study of key Earth surface processes and environmental change, and methods used in researching these topics. Both their factual knowledge and critical reasoning skills will be tested through a combination of multiple choice and written questions.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 17 Varies Varies 23.5
Discussion sessions 15 Varies 0.5 hours 7.5
Seminars 3 Varies 1 hour 3
Practicals and discussions 4 Varies 2 hour 8
Preparation and Reading 158
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative question booklet Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative question booklet Max 6 pages A4 100%
Component: Unseen examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen examination 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative question booklet, including: Multiple choice questions, short answers, calculations, data plotting, graphical annotations, with written analysis and interpretation, Length: max 3 pages A4. Group-level feedback and peer-to-peer assessment will be provided in to inform responses to the Summative Assignment.

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