Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Any Level 1 or level 2 module in Geography.


Excluded Combination of Modules


  • To support students in developing critical understanding of the theories, practices and politics of participatory development and research in a range of global contexts
  • To develop students’ skills in developing, undertaking and reporting on a participatory project in collaboration with a local community organisation
  • To encourage reflection on the intersections of theory and practice in participation, and the importance of geographical concepts and methods to this relationship


  • The module involves a set of core lectures on the history, theory, practices, politics, ethics and methods of participatory development and research. Participatory approaches to human geography involve undertaking research and other activities collaboratively between universities and communities. They comprise research, education and action that is oriented to seeking social justice, turning the usual mode of academic knowledge production on its head. They are founded on philosophies and practices derived from radical pedagogy, feminist, anti-racist and postcolonial perspectives. The lectures pay special attention to the importance of the geographies of participation, and explore a range of recent critiques and debates. They draw on a rich variety of case studies from across the world
  • In parallel, students have the unique opportunity to work collaboratively with local community organisations on participatory projects. They will co-design and carry out short pieces of research, putting their learning into action. Reports to the organisation will make up the first piece of summative assessment. Short personal reflections will link theory and practice. A one-week essay paper will encourage the integration of practical and conceptual issues from learning across the module.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of the theories, practices and politics of participatory development and research and its relation to the geography of social justice
  • Critically appraise the processes of knowledge production, and the impacts of knowledge, that characterise mainstream geographical research
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of the relationships between people, participation, space, place and scale
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:
  • Synthesise and critically assess the interdisciplinary literatures on participatory research and development
  • Identify and critically discuss a range of ethical and political issues raised by participation
  • Implement and discuss an integrated model of theory and practice
Key Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:
  • Work collaboratively with community organisations to co-produce knowledge during a short participatory action research project
  • Negotiate and facilitate participatory enquiry using appropriate methods
  • Develop expertise in critically reflecting on our own practice
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of the theories of participation, and develop evidence-based argument

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

  • Lectures will focus on key theoretical, political, ethical and methodological issues and concepts, introducing students to interdisciplinary literatures and using selected case studies in illustration. They will encourage students to reflect on the impacts of research in the social sciences, and critically appraise different models of knowledge production
  • Fieldwork will involve students in practicing what they have learnt about participatory research in the field, and implementing a project. Fieldwork will be supported by a series of project workshops which, as well as providing close guidance and a trouble-shooting role, will encourage students to reflect iteratively on their experiences and relate these to key concepts and critical debates
  • Student preparation and reading includes time spent preparing for fieldwork; reading; report and exam preparation; and discussions with community partners
  • The formative assessment will require students to put their subject knowledge into practice and co-design a project with research participants
  • The report for the community organisation will require students to develop research skills, critically analyse and present research findings, engaging research partners collaboratively in the process.
  • The personal reflections assignment will require students to practice critical reflection on the process of doing their project
  • The one week essay will require students to read widely and synthesise the literatures on participatory research and development in order to produce an advanced discussion of key theoretical, political, ethical and methodological issues; and to demonstrate how their own practice relates to concepts they have learnt

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 8 Fortnightly 2 hours 16
Lectures (fieldwork logistics and Health & Safety briefing) 2 Term 1 (to be advised) 2 hours 4
Project workshops 6 Key points during fieldwork 2 hours 12
Fieldwork 8 2.5 hours 20
Preparation and Reading 148
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Report on project Component Weighting: 45%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Report on project (max 6 pages including presentation of data) max 6 pages A4 and 2 sides A4 respectively 100%
Component: Personal reflections Component Weighting: 15%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Personal reflections max 2 pages 100%
Component: One week essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
One week essay. Students will have one week from the issue of the essay questions to submit ONE answer max. 5 pages in accordance with Departmental policy on Coursework Length and Format 100%

Formative Assessment:

Project proposal, 2-page document.

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