Vignettes of Practice: Design and delivery of a new Module – GEOG1123 Climate Change People Policy and Action

Dr Sian Evans and Dr Matthew Smith; School of Science and the Environment


This case study demonstrates how we designed and delivered a new 15 credit L4 geography module ‘GEOG1123: Climate Change: People, Policy and Action’, with a specific focus on constructive alignment (Biggs, 2003), student engagement (Coates, 2006 p. 17, Kahu, 2013, Bryson, 2014 p.3), and active learning (Prince, 2004, Michael, 2006). The module was developed in line with UW’s Policy & Regulatory Framework, Learning and Teaching Strategy 2015 – 2018 and Technology Enhanced Learning Strategy 2015 – 2019.

Our goal was to take the students on a journey of discovery of the topic as well as themselves by developing their personal reflective practice and enhancing their ability to become independent learners. Critical to our design process was our desire to incorporate innovative, imaginative, challenging and engaging assessments. We also wanted to scaffold student learning (Schmidt et al., 2011) and ensure summative assessments were fully integrated in course content, so that weekly learning and formative tasks built knowledge and helped students develop, apply and rehearse key skills.

Summative Assessment 1: Students were required to write an essay reflecting on their participation in a mock UN Climate Change Conference (, n.d.). In this role play scenario, students act out the positions of different stakeholders (i.e. different countries and lobbyists) and debate their contributions to reducing carbon emissions and other mitigation activities. The goal was for participants to achieve a consensus and keep global temperatures from rising above 2oC, which was tested using the C-ROADS Climate Change Policy Simulator (Rooney-Varga et al., 2018).

Summative Assessment 2:  Students worked in groups to create a 10-minute video podcast for a public audience, exploring the impacts and response to climate change for a country of their choice. They were free to choose the country, the climate impacts and the scale of the response they focused on. There was considerable flexibility in how they undertook this, ranging from a simple recorded PowerPoint presentation with voiceover to short choreographed films. The podcasts were marked on content and how well the materials had been translated for a public audience.

Impact of the new module and student reaction to our efforts to foster constructive alignment was explored in several ways. These included focus groups for a Students as Academic Partners project report, informal feedback, personal reflections and the module evaluation.

In this first year, 100% of students felt engaged with the module and were satisfied with the quality of the module overall. In particular, feedback on the module evaluation stated the climate change debate was “a fun way to consolidate what we have learnt”. We are revising the module based on students’ comments, and reflecting on how to deliver the assessments to increased class sizes following proposed changes to Level 4 structure. This experience will have considerable impact on our future practice, and we are now eager to implement the improvements and to develop the module further for the next (2018/19) academic year.



Biggs, J. (2003) Teaching for quality learning at university: what the student does, Buckingham, The Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.

Bryson, C. (2014) Clarifying the concept of student engagement, in Bryson, C. (ed.) Understanding and developing student engagement. Routledge. (n.d.) World Climate: Climate Change Negotiations Game. Available:

Coates, H. (2006) Student Engagement in Campus-Based and Online Education: University Connections, Taylor & Francis.

Kahu, E.R. (2013) Framing student engagement in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 38, 758-773. 10.1080/03075079.2011.598505

Michael, J. (2006) Where’s the evidence that active learning works? Advances in Physiology Education, 30, 159-167. 10.1152/advan.00053.2006

Prince, M. (2004) Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93, 223-231. 10.1002/j.2168-9830.2004.tb00809.x

Rooney-Varga, J.N., Sterman, J.D., Fracassi, E., Franck, T., Kapmeier, F., Kurker, V., Johnston, E., Jones, A.P. and Rath, K. (2018) Combining role-play with interactive simulation to motivate informed climate action: Evidence from the World Climate simulation. PLOS ONE, 13, e0202877. 10.1371/journal.pone.0202877

Schmidt, H.G., Rotgans, J.I. and Yew, E.H.J. (2011) The process of problem-based learning: what works and why. Medical Education, 45, 792-806. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.04035.x

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