School of Geography, University of Leeds geog1300 Geography Tutorials

Differences between School and University: Dispelling the Myths

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1.3.1 Differences between School and University: Dispelling the Myths

You will be left much more to your own devices and will be expected to find your own reading material and make selections from reading lists. You will have to learn how to read lots of material quickly and make good use of material and ideas to resource essays, reports and projects. You will spend much less time in class; instead, you will spend a considerable amount of time in the library following up ideas discussed in lectures and flagged on reading lists (we still talk about ‘reading for a degree’). You will have to manage and organise your own work schedule. This is particularly important if you find that you have similar deadlines for different pieces of coursework associated with different modules.
There is a big myth that A-level knowledge will get you through Level 1 – this is just not true. Whilst some of the same topics may be covered, they will be explored in very different ways. Both the level and breadth will vary and will be developed in much more advanced ways. Some topics will be explored from a variety of different perspectives. You will also be expected to gain a deeper understanding of this material, and will arrive at this through your independent reading and thinking.
The University of Leeds is a larger institution with more variety, more facilities, more fellow-students and larger classes than you will have experienced to date. It is also less intimate, which means that there is more of an onus on you to seek help if you have any problems. There is plenty of help available but you have to ask.

1.3.2 How about Geography?

As you know, Geography spans both the sciences and the social sciences, and deals with a range of different ideas and arguments. There is an emphasis on critical analytical skills and an appreciation of geographical ideas and concepts rather than memorising particular facts. There are some problems and ideas for which there are clear answers and others for which there are no right-or-wrong answers, problems and ideas that are open to debate. Although lecturers may have strong opinions, they will not mark you down for taking a different position, nor will they give you any special credit for agreeing with them. They will be looking for a much broader understanding of the range of issues and ideas, critical reflection on debates in the literature, and also an ability to argue for a particular position in an essay. You will need to be able to support your arguments with examples and appropriate evidence, properly references your sources, and demonstrate that you have engaged with appropriate academic literature. This means that you must undertake considerable amounts of reading each week. You will be given some very long reading lists, although you will not be expected to consult every reference. You will need to be selective in choosing what you follow up and read. At the same time, however, you must make sure that you have enough depth of material to resource essays, projects and exam answers. You will also be expected, on many occasions, to find your own academic literature to supplement that provided by your lecturer or tutor.
Discussion also plays an important role in the teaching of geography, since it helps you to approach problems from many and varied viewpoints. You will find workshops and group work built into many modules; this will give you plenty of time and opportunity to discuss ideas and material with your colleagues and lecturers.

1.3.3 Comparing Timetables with Other University Subjects

Compare your timetable with a student in English. An English student normally has a maximum 6 contact hours a week. It is obvious to students from English that in the rest of the week they need to read the texts and commentaries. Geography students have a slightly fuller timetable, as we also teach you technical skills (e.g. computing, lab work and statistics). Our laboratory and computer classes have continual assessment elements. BUT we expect you, like students from English, to be reading the appropriate supporting geographical literature in parallel with these classes as well as for lecture-based modules. So always remember that we will expect you to provide evidence of further reading and personal learning beyond the lecture material in your coursework, essays and exam answers.

1.3.4 The Importance of Level 1

Students sometimes mistakenly think that the first year does not matter – this is not true. Whilst we do not use your marks from year 1 to calculate your final degree class, your final degree mark transcript will have all your grades from all your modules from all years of your degree programme printed on it. It is a transcript of all your achievements for all the modules undertaken during your time at the University of Leeds. An employer and anyone interviewing you for a first job will know what you have achieved. We do not count Level 1 when calculating your final degree class because we appreciate that it takes time to settle into this very different work pattern and manage your own study time and needs. Level 1 is all about learning to adapt to studying at university, developing important skills to be an independent learner and performing to the highest academic standards in subsequent years. Don’t forget – a number of modules are pass to progress.

1.4 Thinking about Study Time

A 20 credit module in this university represents 200 hours of student effort. Therefore, a 10 credit module represents 100 hours of effort. Table 3 summarises the content, nature, contact hours and private study hours for Level 1 single honours geography degrees. Other programmes are summarised in course handbooks, and the structure and content of all programmes are summarised on Campusweb at:
Table 3 includes some ‘blanks’ for you to fill in to complete Task 2. The penultimate column shows you that you are expected to spend more than 50% of ‘total hours’ on personal study time. You need to use this time for following up ideas, undertaking reading, completing assessments, and preparing and revising for exams, etc. The breakdown of time you should spend on particular private study tasks is shown in each module description for each module. You also need to assign personal/private study time to complete practical reports and practise your computer skills at your own pace.

Task 2: Study Time

Fill in the blanks and correct any entries in Table 3 (indicated by yellow highlighting). Do this by making reference to appropriate Week 1 handouts for individual modules.

    • If you do not have handouts for each module, just go to the Student Portal and check out and look at the modules you are registered for, or use the University online programme/module catalogue at:

    • If you do use the online module catalogue, make sure you select modules for the 2009/10 academic year.

    • In particular, identify the reading and coursework requirements, taking note of particular assessments and tasks that need to be completed for each module.

    • Delete/amend any information that is not appropriate to your programme (particularly if you are on the Geography & Transport Planning or Geography-Geology programmes, or are a joint honours student).

    • Copy, edit and paste the final completed table into a Word document and keep it with your module notes for future reference and exam preparation.

Then devise a rough weekly work schedule for each module. What does your schedule look like? You might want to do this my producing a grid that resembles your timetable and assigning study tasks and activities (e.g. reading for different modules) to slots when you don’t have timetabled classes. You’ll also have to assign extra slots in the evening and/or at weekends for some tasks. You might want to then move on and start allocating specific module tasks and assessments to particular days or weeks, and you may want to devise a series of weekly timetables of work. You may also find it useful using a diary (see also below).

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