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Dr Alison Williams (& Dr Simon Tate) Geography. Outline The Geography dissertation process The problem Solutions to date and issues with these Further.

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Presentation on theme: "Dr Alison Williams (& Dr Simon Tate) Geography. Outline The Geography dissertation process The problem Solutions to date and issues with these Further."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dr Alison Williams (& Dr Simon Tate) Geography

2 Outline The Geography dissertation process The problem Solutions to date and issues with these Further work Presentation informed by student advisory team input and analysis of focus group material (quotes included) Funded by a UTLSEC Innovation Award

3 Geography Dissertation Process (Stage 2) October: Dissertation introduced through a whole-year, stage 2 dissertation preparation module (GEO2111) February: The Dissertation Conference - Stage 3 students present their dissertation projects to Stage 2 students March: Stage 2 students submit their Dissertation Research Proposal May: Stage 2 students allocated a dissertation mentor Summer: Data collected before October

4 The Geography Dissertation process (Stage 3) Dissertation mentors – staff who guide the process, not necessarily subject specialists Students encouraged to meet with other staff to support projects Need to produce a 10,000 word dissertation based on original research Draft chapter submitted January of Stage 3 Final dissertation submitted March of Stage 3

5 The Problem Too much of the dissertation preparation module (GEO2111) and information was staff-led, about staff research projects “you can’t relate to the seminar leader or the lecturer” “it’s easier to follow the advice of the students who’ve done it before than the seminar leaders”

6 Solution 1: The Dissertation Conference Stage 3 students nearing completion of their dissertation asked to present on their work. Stage 2 students sign up to one of 4 sessions. Stage 2 hear several talks and can ask questions. Social reception afterwards for students to mingle – ideally to offer ability for informal chats about dissertations. Provides peer learning opportunity – coalface insight into realities of dissertation process.

7 Limitations: Choice of group limited – students can only attend one set of presentations Inability to recap presentations – not all rooms used are recap enabled / issue of recapping students Groups are necessarily restrictive – economic geography rather than socio-economic geography etc Stage 2 students often reluctant to ask questions and unable to link their ideas to presentations Solution 1: The Dissertation Conference

8 Limitations: “in our conference, it was someone stood up at the front and presented their idea, well presented what they’d done and then that was it, and then it was the next person and there wasn’t really the interaction between people to ask people” “they asked ‘anyone got any questions; at the end but obviously no one asks in that environment when its in a lecture theatre”

9 Solution 1: The Dissertation Conference Limitations: Presenters don’t all follow same structure for presentation Quality and subject matter of presentations dependent on presenters who volunteer Usually don’t reflect on process of choosing idea. Instead focus on RQ, data collection, write up Useful but too advanced for Stage 2 students Timing too early for Stage 2 students but DRP due in March. Stage 3 students still writing dissertations so less able to think reflexively about process

10 Student advisory team established (summer term 2011). Needed to provide a better peer learning tool to give stage 2 students an insight into the dissertation process – as it is experienced by students. Ideally needed to find a way for stage 3 students to reflect on their dissertation project once its finished. Solution 2: Dissertation Videos

11 Created a series of 10-minute videos of stage 3 students talking about the realities of their dissertation projects, recorded in June (i.e. after dissertation submission) Offers opportunity to be more reflexive about experience A variety of human and physical geography projects - gives more nuanced and wider range of subject matter No staff voices – peer learning Questions designed by student advisory group Solution 2: Dissertation Videos

12 Questions for video interviews 1.Can you tell us a little bit about the project you carried out? 2.How did you come up with the idea for the project? 3.How did you decide on an appropriate methodology and why did you choose the methods you used? 4.Has the idea changed since your DRP and if so how and why? 5.At what point in the project did you look at existing literature and what impact did it have on your research? 6.What was the worst point in the research and how did you overcome it? 7.If you did the project again what would you keep the same and what would you do differently?

13 10 videos made available for January 2013 First cohort of stage 2 students accessed the videos during seminars in GEO2111 focusing on aspects of the dissertation research proposal process Focus groups in May 2013 carried out to assess the usefulness of videos (used to direct this presentation) Carried out more interviews in June 2013 to add to videos that are available Solution 2: Dissertation Videos

14 Strengths Fills some of the gaps Wider range of presentations (adding to videos each year so will have more variety of projects each year) Reflexive and reflective – students have had time to think about their dissertation process Clear structure all videos have same questions in same order videos available by student and by question Solution 2: Dissertation Videos

15 Strengths Questions set go right back to start of process so Stage 2 students can relate more easily to what is said Not a lecturer telling them how/what to do Real Geography students talking about real Geography dissertations – often very honestly! Videos used in seminar teaching in GEO2111 Opportunities for discussion Solution 2: Dissertation Videos

16 Strengths “I did like the videos… because that was good for inspiration even just to get ideas, just to see how they went through all the different stages” “You could watch one person’s entire video about how they did their dissertation which is good if they have a similar topic to you but they also divided them up into clips so [you can] have six different people talking about that, so they you could get an idea” Solution 2: Dissertation Videos

17 Limitations Not interactive enough Can’t ask questions Dependent on good will of Stage 3 students Can limit the variety of dissertations Only want to interview ‘good’ students? Difficult to actively pick interviews to fill gaps Solution 2: Dissertation Videos

18 Limitations “seem to remember they weren’t massively varying, there were a lot of economic geography ones… so it would have been helpful to have like an equal balance… development and globalisation and political ones” “I thought [the seminars were] a waste of time actually because you can watch them at home and we didn't by discussing them, we didn’t really get anything else out of it” Solution 2: Dissertation Videos

19 Further work Drawing on comments from focus groups, we need to revisit the Dissertation Conference: Tighten up structure of what presenters talk about Investigate possibility of holding sessions at different times (so students can attend more than one) Consider having smaller social activity linked to each presentation so that its easier for students to talk to presenters Use videos to prepare students for Dissertation Conference – give an idea of what to expect and how to make the most of it Develop interactivity elements

20 Conclusions Still a work in progress Focus group work has highlighted positives and negatives Use of IT/video easy and useful Committed to finding ways to provide peer learning for Geography dissertation process

21 Practicalities Filmed on a standard definition video camera, using an SD card. Video camera with an external microphone and capable of HD quality would have been ideal All videos edited with Windows Live Movie Maker and saved as a WMV files. Average file size MB depending on length of interview. All videos hosted free and securely on NU Vision which produces a link you embed in Blackboard. https://nuvision.ncl.ac.uk/ New version of Blackboard makes embedding videos easier.


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