Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham
Tied to F802
Tied to F804


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To develop an advanced understanding of relationships and feedbacks between erosion, tectonics, and mountain building in active orogens.


  • An advanced assessment of mountains as coupled erosion-tectonic systems and the active tectonics of mountain belts,
  • The detailed patterns of glacial and fluvial erosion processes, and an assessment of the timescales and rates over which these operate
  • The major feedbacks between tectonics, climate and erosional processes and links between erosion and biogeochemical cycles
  • How field measurements, remote sensing, laboratory experiments and computer modelling can be applied to develop an advanced understanding of processes and feedbacks in mountain belts

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of the module students are expected to be able to:
  • Demonstrate advanced levels of knowledge and understanding of the rates, patterns, and major processes of erosion in mountain belts.
  • Understand basic processes and patterns of tectonic activity
  • Identify and interpret the major feedbacks between tectonics and the Earth surface system.
  • Demonstrate recognition of current debates and areas of uncertainty in the subject area
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:
  • Identify and relate the key physical processes that build mountain ranges
  • Appreciate and analyse the interactions and feedbacks between erosion, tectonics, and climate in shaping mountain ranges
  • Evaluate the use of different analytical techniques for studing mountain range evolution
  • Read and critically assess the scientific literature on erosion, tectonics, and climate
Key Skills:
  • The ability to read, synthesise, and understand a range of current literature
  • Skill in summarising and presenting cutting-edge subject material and complex arguments to a mixed audience of staff and students
  • The ability to lead and sustain discussion by focusing on key questions or points
  • The ability to prepare a concise written summary of a complex and multi-faceted topic
  • Critical analysis and interpretation of data and text
  • Effective communication in writing and through graphical (poster) presentations
  • Identification, retrieval, and exchange of information using a wide range of sources

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

  • Lectures will aim to provide students with an outline of key concepts in the topic area, to introduce and contextualize the literature that they will explore, and provide relevant examples and case studies. This will provide the core understanding required for the students to explore the more advanced subject-specific knowledge that they will encounter in the reading.
  • Seminars will follow the format of advanced ‘reading groups’ and will be used to summarise and critique the key scientific literature at an advanced level. They will introduce students to cutting-edge subject-specific knowledge and provide a forum for open discussion of major topics. Students will take an active role in leading discussions, while staff will oversee and guide discussions throughout the module. These discussions will form the basis of the summative assignments. The students will receive formative feedback throughout the seminar sessions on their ability to summarise the subject-specific knowledge of the topic and on their recognition of the key differences between papers and approaches.
  • Workshops will provide hands-on experience of analysing and interpreting geomorphic data from mountain belts. These will not be assessed, but will provide students with the opportunity to develop their analytical skills and techniques, and to recognise and appreciate key approaches that have been used in the literature.
  • The conference will examine the students’ ability to synthesise material from the reading group themes by producing an academic poster. During the conference, students will present their key findings and answer questions from their peers and staff. The poster will provide students with experience in summarising research results, and will provide them with the opportunity to demonstrate their subject-specific knowledge of the topic as well as their understanding of the key debates and outstanding issues.
  • The student preparation and reading time is devoted to reading key literature set by staff prior to the discussion sessions. Each student will participate equally in summarising and leading discussion on papers over the course of the module.
  • The short written critical analysis (which forms the second summative assessment) will be based on the key topics and the overarching theme of the module, ‘Erosion and Orogenesis’. This will be written in the style of a short research review or academic journal article, and is intentionally limited to 2000 words to encourage students to focus on the key elements and common themes. The assessment will provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to summarise the state of knowledge and outstanding issues around a complex topic – this includes all of the subject-specific knowledge and key skills listed above.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 7 Varies 1.5 hours 10.5
Seminars 10 5 per term 1.5 hours 15
Workshops 2 1 per term 3 hours 6
Conference 1 Term 2 4 hours 4
Self-directed learning 164.5
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Poster presentation Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Poster presentation at ‘Erosion and Orogenesis’ conference 100%
Component: Coursework Assignment Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Coursework assignment 2000 words, 2 figures 100%

Formative Assessment:

Verbal and written formative feedback will be provided during reading group discussion during workshop practicals, and during the 'Erosion and Orogenesis' conference.

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