ESC-10039 - Fundamentals of Physical Geography
Coordinator: Peter G Knight Room: WSF30 Tel: +44 1782 7 34304
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 4
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office: 01782 733615

Programme/Approved Electives for 2022/23


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2022/23

This module offers a self-contained introduction to physical geography for students from a variety of backgrounds (including students with no previous experience in the subject), and offers a foundation in the subject for those students who wish to pursue it to a higher level. We cover a broad range of topics, and focus on how the interactions of energy and materials at the Earth's surface control the development of landscapes in the context of long-term environmental change. Students will explore big issues such as climate change, sea level, plate tectonics, atmospheric circulation, Earth materials and landforming processes. This is an important, topical module that underpins further study in many aspects of physical and environmental geography, and is a central part of our 1st-year Geography programme.
Students who complete this module successfully will be able to:
explain important ideas in Physical Geography;
identify major components of Earth's physical-geographic systems;
recognise connections between global systems and local landscapes;
write effectively about geographical topics;
combine different types of evidence to answer questions about the world around us;
appreciate the role of research in the development of knowledge in physical geography.
This module is a great introduction to the core of the subject or, exactly as the title says, the "fundamentals" of physical geography.

The module aims to provide a self-contained introduction to physical geography for students from a variety of backgrounds, including those with no previous experience in the subject, and to provide a foundation in the subject for those students who wish to pursue it at a higher level.

Talis Aspire Reading List
Any reading lists will be provided by the start of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes

define important terms and briefly explain important concepts in Physical Geography, recognising the importance of clear, concise writing in science: 1,2
identify and describe major components of the Earth's physical-geographic systems, including patterns of variation in the global environment and connections between global systems and local landscapes: 1,2
combine different types of geographical evidence in order to describe and explain phenomena of the physical environment in a variety of written styles appropriate to the discipline: 1,2
describe the dynamic, plural and contested nature of the discipline, and the contribution of research to the development of knowledge in Physical Geography: 1,2

Study hours

22 hours scheduled class meetings (interactive large-group "flipped-classroom" sessions with Q&A and reinforcement exercises).
66 hours guided online study (3 hours per lecture-equivalent resource) including some assessment-related research
31 hours essay completion
31 hours patchwork text completion

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Short Paper weighted 50%
1,000 word short essay
1,000 word short essay, plus reference list, to be prepared in accordance with the Geography House Style on a title chosen from a list provided in the module handbook at the start of the module. The short-length format is a deliberate challenge to help students learn about the important skill of concise writing in a scientific context, so the wordcount for this item will be a fixed limit. The short length does not reflect any reduced expectation in workload compared with a longer essay. As Oscar Wilde famously explained, it can actually take longer to write a short piece than to write a longer piece!

2: Reflective Analysis weighted 50%
Patchwork activities plus a summative reflective analysis.
In a patchwork assessment, students compile exercises, reflections and other study activities through out the module, and present these as illustrations or evidence to support a (summative) guided reflective analysis at the end of the module. The summative report will have a suggested word count of 2000-2500 words, but this is likely to be broken down into a series of much shorter items in many students' submissions. The longer wordcount does not therefore reflect a greater workload for this item compared with the other assessment item in this module. Students will be guided through the process throughout the module.