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Training the next generation of near-surface geophysicists: team-based, student-led, problem-solving field exercises, Cumbria, UKNormal access

Authors: J.K. Pringle, N.J. Cassidy, P. Styles, I.G. Stimpson and S.M. Toon
Journal name: Near Surface Geophysics
Issue: Vol 8, No 6, December 2010 pp. 503 - 517
DOI: 10.3997/1873-0604.2010050
Special topic: Student-based Research
Language: English
Info: Article, PDF ( 21.81Mb )
Price: € 30

Discussions with employers of graduate applied geophysicists (reinforced by recent literature) indicate a progressive reduction in the numeracy and literacy of graduating students. In particular, there is a perception that problem-solving and quantitative analysis skills are not being gained during university studies, which could be partly attributed to an emphasis on classroom lectures and timetable constraints rather than research-informed and active learning in the field. This paper provides a pedagogic overview of a Masters level, student-led residential field exercise in the Lake District, Cumbria, UK that has run for eight years. The valley has complex glaciated bedrock buried by recent sediments, which poses a challenge for students to recognize, understand and quantify in three dimensions. Participating student ‘companies’ are set a competitive task to win a contract for a full geophysical valley survey to determine the route of a gas pipeline. Students initially complete a desk study, collating available multi-disciplinary (geology, remote sensing and geotechnical) data sets. The student-led field exercise then acts as a geophysical reconnaissance mission, with teams mapping depth to bedrock and estimating extents of any coastal salinity incursions. Full costings are produced to simulate a real work contract and the successful company is awarded the ‘contract’, based on ‘client’ presentations on the final day of the exercise. Comments on the student learning outcomes are provided, including employability skills in team working, problem-solving, quantitative data analysis, project and budget management and client presentation skills. Recent student evaluations are discussed with very positive comments from graduate geophysicists who have entered related employment emphasizing how the exercise has prepared them for the workplace.

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