Supporting the teaching of Earth sciences at all levels
Higher Education
EARTH SCIENCE TEACHERS’ ASSOCIATION
Registered charity number 1005331

Report from Higher Education Coordinator, 2015-2016

November 2015

1 day meeting: “Confronting barriers to inclusion: opening the gate to accessible fieldwork”,

26th June 2015, Burlington House

Higher Education Network and University Geoscience UK (formerly CHUGD)

Alison Stokes organised this successful day meeting at the Geological Society on how to improve access to fieldwork, following on from a successful pilot ‘fully accessible’ GSA field trip near Vancouver in 2014.  One of the co-leaders of that trip, Chris Atchison, delivered the keynote at the meeting, and also visited the Open University the following day to meet with various researchers working on different innovations around fieldwork accessibility and distance teaching.

HEN annual meeting, Liverpool University 11th-12th January 2016

The annual meeting of the Higher Education Network will be held in Liverpool on Monday 11 th   January 2016, with a general theme of “Sharing Educational Practice in the Geosciences”.  Derek France (University of Chester) and Richard Chiverrell (University of Liverpool) are keynote speakers. The conference will be followed by a one-day workshop on 12 th  January 2016 addressing the broad theme of “Helping large numbers of students succeed in practical classes” facilitated by Alan Boyle (University of Liverpool).  This event will be laboratory-based and abstracts are invited that showcase practical-based L&T initiatives aimed at engaging large classes.

Geological Society

At the GSL Education Committee meeting on 9 th  September, topics of discussion included the isolation of geoscience educators, especially in relation to fieldwork provision for disabled students (prompted by the GSL June meeting run by Alison Stokes); from this arose a call for more effective networking forums (Twitter chats, Facebook groups, web-based forums or community pages) to pool resources, ideas and simply connect this scattered community. The 2015 Earth Science Week will take place on 10 – 18 October, over 2 weekends, on a theme of ‘Geological Time’.  The GSL do their best to promote this through their regional groups and other channels, but the view from ‘outside’ the GSL seems to be: why is there not more publicity, and more events happening?  The GSL have limited staff (further reduced this past year by illness and retirement of one key staff member) – but of course they can’t do everything. The Careers Pages at the GSL looks on course for a formal launch to coincide with Earth Science Week.

Virtual fieldwork

Our Daden Ltd-led project investigating the feasibility of a ‘virtual field trip service’ has been awarded further funding for a Phase 2 project (development), which will run until Nov 2016.  This will include a number of trials with schools, mainly run through the FSC. However, if any committee members know of schools/teachers who might be willing to trial the system, all offers would be gratefully received!  We’ll be trialling a new prototype aimed more squarely at schools than Virtual Skiddaw was, based in Shropshire (Cardingmill Valley) – the idea is to produce virtual environments that could be used for a range of disciplines: Geography, Ecology, Environment, Archaeology, History… as well as Earth Science.

March 2016

HEN annual meeting, Liverpool University 11th-12th January 2016

The annual meeting of the Higher Education Network was held in Liverpool on Monday 11 th  January 2016, with a general theme of “Sharing Educational Practice in the Geosciences”. Derek France (University of Chester) and Richard Chiverrell (University of Liverpool) gave interesting keynote talks, focusing on fieldwork technology and large practical class sizes respectively.  Other contributions discussed 3D structural modelling, virtual worlds, high tech/low-tech solutions, teamwork, interdisciplinarity and ‘on-campus geological mapping’ (at Glasgow). The conference was followed by a one-day workshop on 12 th  January 2016 addressing the broad theme of “Helping large numbers of students succeed in practical classes” facilitated by Alan Boyle, Simon Martin and several other staff from the University of Liverpool.  Demonstrations of two virtual worlds and Midland Valley’s MOVE software was followed by a ‘carousel’ of different practical activities in Liverpool’s new practical labs, giving a taste of how the university delivers a suite of practicals to 200+ students over a term.  Fascinating, daunting, and great fun! The next HEN annual meeting will be held at Burlington House, London, hosted by the Geological Society, in January 2017.

University Geoscience UK (formerly CHUGD) 2 day meeting, 24-25th February 2016,

Burlington House

The second (main) day of this thematic University Geoscience UK meeting at the Geological Society was a workshop on the value of fieldwork in the HE curriculum and the challenges facing it.  Commitment to fieldwork teaching was re-iterated by both Industry and HE stakeholders.  The two critical threats to field teaching were cost (understandably), but also the decline in staff confident/competent/willing to run field trips – due perhaps to a more general decline in field-based research.  A need for staff training was identified, and some options for this were briefly explored, including involving the Higher Education Network.  There was also a call for greater inclusivity in fieldwork, and geoscience overall – notably in the traditionally ‘macho’ image of Earth science courses projected to potential students via prospectuses and other publicity material (i.e. rugged young men in equally rugged landscapes).  The new Careers webpage at the Geological Society could provide a template for this. An interesting set of figures presented by Andy Saunders (Accreditation officer at the GSL) showed that most universities with GSL-accredited programmes were currently providing significantly more field teaching time than was required for accreditation (in some cases >200%).  There was some debate over whether that represented either welcome scope for reduction without detrimental effects, or a laudably healthy situation that demonstrated the need for retaining fieldwork in the curriculum.

Geological Society

At the GSL Education Committee meeting on 28 th  January, 2016, topics of discussion included A- Level and GCSE reform, the Careers Portal (which should finally be live by the 5 th  March!), and accessible fieldwork.  The GSL is aiming to develop a code of practice for accessible fieldwork, drawing on expertise and experience from other organisations – for example, the Field Studies Council. The 2015 Earth Science Week (https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/earthscienceweek) will take place on 8 – 16 October, over 2 weekends. A schools debate on the Anthropocene will be hosted at Burlington House, and there are many other events running nationwide. Virtual fieldwork Several teachers responded to an ESTA mailing asking for triallists for virtual fieldwork for our Daden Ltd-led project, so we now have a potentially healthy set of trials both for the ‘old’ Virtual Skiddaw app and for the new Cardingmill Valley world.  We also plan to develop a ‘generic’ virtual world that will incorporate all the possible activities we can think of, to which we can add more activities as they are developed, as a showcase for anyone interested.  We are running an online survey of schools involved, and will supplement that with interviews where possible. On the HE side, the Higher Education Network is organising a ‘Virtual Worlds Workshop’ at Leeds University on 14 th  June – details to appear on the Geological Society website.  This will include a couple of demos but focus mainly on discussing how to pool resources and develop a partnership or consortium to take virtual worlds forward, share ideas and applications, and pursue further funding. Tom Argles
Supporting the teaching of Earth sciences at all levels
EARTH SCIENCE TEACHERS’ ASSOCIATION

Report from Higher Education

Coordinator, 2015-2016

November 2015

1 day meeting: “Confronting barriers to

inclusion: opening the gate to accessible

fieldwork”, 26th June 2015, Burlington House

Higher Education Network and University

Geoscience UK (formerly CHUGD)

Alison Stokes organised this successful day meeting at the Geological Society on how to improve access to fieldwork, following on from a successful pilot ‘fully accessible’ GSA field trip near Vancouver in 2014.  One of the co-leaders of that trip, Chris Atchison, delivered the keynote at the meeting, and also visited the Open University the following day to meet with various researchers working on different innovations around fieldwork accessibility and distance teaching.

HEN annual meeting, Liverpool University

11th-12th January 2016

The annual meeting of the Higher Education Network will be held in Liverpool on Monday 11 th   January 2016, with a general theme of “Sharing Educational Practice in the Geosciences”.  Derek France (University of Chester) and Richard Chiverrell (University of Liverpool) are keynote speakers. The conference will be followed by a one-day workshop on 12 th  January 2016 addressing the broad theme of “Helping large numbers of students succeed in practical classes” facilitated by Alan Boyle (University of Liverpool).  This event will be laboratory-based and abstracts are invited that showcase practical-based L&T initiatives aimed at engaging large classes.

Geological Society

At the GSL Education Committee meeting on 9 th   September, topics of discussion included the isolation of geoscience educators, especially in relation to fieldwork provision for disabled students (prompted by the GSL June meeting run by Alison Stokes); from this arose a call for more effective networking forums (Twitter chats, Facebook groups, web-based forums or community pages) to pool resources, ideas and simply connect this scattered community. The 2015 Earth Science Week will take place on 10 – 18 October, over 2 weekends, on a theme of ‘Geological Time’.  The GSL do their best to promote this through their regional groups and other channels, but the view from ‘outside’ the GSL seems to be: why is there not more publicity, and more events happening?  The GSL have limited staff (further reduced this past year by illness and retirement of one key staff member) – but of course they can’t do everything. The Careers Pages at the GSL looks on course for a formal launch to coincide with Earth Science Week.

Virtual fieldwork

Our Daden Ltd-led project investigating the feasibility of a ‘virtual field trip service’ has been awarded further funding for a Phase 2 project (development), which will run until Nov 2016.  This will include a number of trials with schools, mainly run through the FSC. However, if any committee members know of schools/teachers who might be willing to trial the system, all offers would be gratefully received!  We’ll be trialling a new prototype aimed more squarely at schools than Virtual Skiddaw was, based in Shropshire (Cardingmill Valley) – the idea is to produce virtual environments that could be used for a range of disciplines: Geography, Ecology, Environment, Archaeology, History… as well as Earth Science.

March 2016

HEN annual meeting, Liverpool University

11th-12th January 2016

The annual meeting of the Higher Education Network was held in Liverpool on Monday 11 th   January 2016, with a general theme of “Sharing Educational Practice in the Geosciences”. Derek France (University of Chester) and Richard Chiverrell (University of Liverpool) gave interesting keynote talks, focusing on fieldwork technology and large practical class sizes respectively.  Other contributions discussed 3D structural modelling, virtual worlds, high tech/low- tech solutions, teamwork, interdisciplinarity and ‘on-campus geological mapping’ (at Glasgow). The conference was followed by a one-day workshop on 12 th  January 2016 addressing the broad theme of “Helping large numbers of students succeed in practical classes” facilitated by Alan Boyle, Simon Martin and several other staff from the University of Liverpool.  Demonstrations of two virtual worlds and Midland Valley’s MOVE software was followed by a ‘carousel’ of different practical activities in Liverpool’s new practical labs, giving a taste of how the university delivers a suite of practicals to 200+ students over a term.  Fascinating, daunting, and great fun! The next HEN annual meeting will be held at Burlington House, London, hosted by the Geological Society, in January 2017.

University Geoscience UK (formerly CHUGD) 2

day meeting, 24-25th February 2016,

Burlington House

The second (main) day of this thematic University Geoscience UK meeting at the Geological Society was a workshop on the value of fieldwork in the HE curriculum and the challenges facing it.  Commitment to fieldwork teaching was re-iterated by both Industry and HE stakeholders.  The two critical threats to field teaching were cost (understandably), but also the decline in staff confident/competent/willing to run field trips – due perhaps to a more general decline in field-based research.  A need for staff training was identified, and some options for this were briefly explored, including involving the Higher Education Network.  There was also a call for greater inclusivity in fieldwork, and geoscience overall – notably in the traditionally ‘macho’ image of Earth science courses projected to potential students via prospectuses and other publicity material (i.e. rugged young men in equally rugged landscapes).  The new Careers webpage at the Geological Society could provide a template for this. An interesting set of figures presented by Andy Saunders (Accreditation officer at the GSL) showed that most universities with GSL- accredited programmes were currently providing significantly more field teaching time than was required for accreditation (in some cases >200%).  There was some debate over whether that represented either welcome scope for reduction without detrimental effects, or a laudably healthy situation that demonstrated the need for retaining fieldwork in the curriculum.

Geological Society

At the GSL Education Committee meeting on 28 th   January, 2016, topics of discussion included A- Level and GCSE reform, the Careers Portal (which should finally be live by the 5 th  March!), and accessible fieldwork.  The GSL is aiming to develop a code of practice for accessible fieldwork, drawing on expertise and experience from other organisations – for example, the Field Studies Council. The 2015 Earth Science Week (https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/earthscienceweek) will take place on 8 – 16 October, over 2 weekends. A schools debate on the Anthropocene will be hosted at Burlington House, and there are many other events running nationwide. Virtual fieldwork Several teachers responded to an ESTA mailing asking for triallists for virtual fieldwork for our Daden Ltd-led project, so we now have a potentially healthy set of trials both for the ‘old’ Virtual Skiddaw app and for the new Cardingmill Valley world.  We also plan to develop a ‘generic’ virtual world that will incorporate all the possible activities we can think of, to which we can add more activities as they are developed, as a showcase for anyone interested.  We are running an online survey of schools involved, and will supplement that with interviews where possible. On the HE side, the Higher Education Network is organising a ‘Virtual Worlds Workshop’ at Leeds University on 14 th  June – details to appear on the Geological Society website.  This will include a couple of demos but focus mainly on discussing how to pool resources and develop a partnership or consortium to take virtual worlds forward, share ideas and applications, and pursue further funding. Tom Argles
Registered charity number 1005331