Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 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 field and analytical skills for understanding research on environmental change


  • Evidence from the oceans
  • Reconstructing glaciation
  • Reconstructing sea level
  • Biological evidence
  • Dating environmental change
  • Geochemical evidence
  • Sedimentological and geomorphological evidence
  • Mechanisms of climate change
  • Atmosphere-ocean-ice sheet interactions
  • Case studies from the UK and abroad
  • Two-day residential fieldtrip based in the North York Moors on the Late Quaternary history of NE England and 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 and understand 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
  • 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 Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Approx. weekly 2 hours 32
Lecture (fieldtrip Health & Safety briefing) 1 Once 2 hours 2
Tutorials 3 Term 2 0.5 hours 1.5
Tutorial (project feedback) 1 Term 2 0.5 hours 0.5
Fieldwork 1 Term 1 2 days 16
Multiple choice test 1 1 0.5 hours 0.5
Preparation and Reading 147.5
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Online 24 hour unseen examination 2 hours (recommended) 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 test based on fieldtrip teaching 30 minutes 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative feedback is provided throughout the module via discussion of topics during the lectures, field weekend 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