School of Earth and Environment

Learning and Teaching Methods


In the School of Earth and Environment, we run undergraduate programmes in six subject areas:

All are available as three-year BSc (or BA in the case of Environment and Business) programmes, with four-year variants offering a year in industry or a year abroad. Our BSc programmes also offer an integrated masters (International) variant.

The content and the learning and teaching methods employed provide you with:

  • An understanding of the subject in its global context
  • Core methodological skills
  • Critical understanding of the discipline
  • Key research skills
  • Field and research experience
  • Transferable skills and enhanced employability

Whilst the programmes are somewhat different in character, the general approach to learning and teaching is the same throughout: you will lay the foundations of subject knowledge and core skills in Year 1, use Year 2 to develop further research and transferable skills and more specialist subject knowledge, while Year 3 offers a greater emphasis on independent thinking, research and critical evaluation. More information can be found on the relevant course pages within the “Course Structure” tab. 

Most modules combine lectures with practicals, workshops or seminars, depending on the subject. These are augmented with skills classes, fieldtrips and small group academic tutorials.  You can expect to study in a variety of settings, from large lecture theatres to computer clusters, seminar rooms, tutorials, laboratories, visualisation suites and out in the field. Our state-of-the-art building is conveniently located in the centre of campus and provides an ideal working environment, and offers quiet study and coffee areas when you are not in class.

Typical contact hours over a year range from 14 (Year 1 BA Environment and Business) to 33 (Year 2 Geological Sciences).  This includes lectures, tutorials, fieldwork and all of the teaching methods described above.  There are many additional opportunities to attend events that will enhance your learning experience; these include seminars by both School staff and guest speakers, and events such as laboratory “see behind the scenes” sessions. The School’s Societies also have a busy programme of activities that includes events of both academic and social interest.  All of this means that the latest research, including that developed by our own staff, contributes to your degree programme – emphasising the ‘why’ and ‘how’ not just the facts.

Independent Learning

Students are also expected to undertake reading, research and other work to augment their scheduled activity.   As you progress through your degree, the level of independent study increases, culminating in a final year project which involves undertaking your own research (or independent mapping in the case of geologists), using the skills that you have gained throughout your degree. 

This research-based learning has a wide range of benefits.  It helps you to develop the ability to work independently and think critically, which is highly valued by employers.  Active engagement with research meanwhile provides a more enjoyable and stimulating university experience, so that our graduates leave with the desire and skills to pursue new knowledge and a commitment to lifelong learning.


As well as the support you will receive from course leaders and personal tutors, all of our course modules are augmented by online materials via our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

Additional support is available in the form of skills training through Skills@library, which covers areas such as reading, academic writing and presentation skills; time management; exams; finding information and plagiarism. 

Careers advice is readily available from both our dedicated School Employability Officer and the University’s acclaimed Careers Centre). 

Additional opportunities for enhancing your learning experience are available in the form of a year in industry or international year, as detailed on individual course pages.  Each year around 6% of our students take up one of these opportunities.  Other opportunities include research internships, active chapters of professional societies, Student Ambassador roles, and an active programme of student experience events.


All programmes make use of a variety of assessment methods that are specifically designed to help students learn, whatever their preferred learning style.  We use both coursework and exams, but with a general progression from an emphasis on exams in year 1 towards an emphasis on coursework in year 3.  Coursework varies depending on the module and the knowledge and/or skills being assessed, but examples include: oral presentations; groupwork; posters; essays; reports; practicals; and fieldwork.  Some coursework is very practical and relates to a specific timetabled session. Other coursework involves independent desk-based research. There are opportunities for ‘formative’ assessments which do not count towards your final marks but which provide you with feedback that you can use to improve your next piece of coursework.  We also offer you drop-in surgery classes and tutorials where you can get help with specific questions or difficulties. Integrated assessments and both written and practical exams are used to draw together wider areas of the course. 

The overall range of assessments on a programme is overseen by the programme leader and student programme ambassador, and our School has an active project on assessment and feedback that delivers innovative and effective practice, e.g. video feedback.

For more information on what it’s like to study in the School of Earth and Environment, please see our Student Experience pages or come and visit us on an Open Day

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