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Study information

Iceland Field Course

Module titleIceland Field Course
Module codeGEO3155
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Tom Roland (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The Iceland field trip provides an opportunity for you to apply and develop your physical geography research skills in a real-world environment. Iceland occupies a unique position on the boundary of the North American and European tectonic plates, and its location in the sub-Arctic north Atlantic make its ice caps sensitive indicators of regional climate. You will learn about the complex interactions taking place between the geothermal heat flowing out underneath Iceland’s glaciers which can lead to damaging natural hazards, but which also represents opportunities. The field trip focuses on the physical processes that have shaped the dramatic landscape of Iceland, and how knowledge of these processes can help us better understand changes in regional climate. We will also explore the history of settlement and how modern Icelanders have harnessed the power of geothermal heat to build a more sustainable economy.

The module will consist of two parts:

  • Pre-trip preparation: this involves a mix of lectures, group working and self-directed study that provide you with the necessary background information and data to successfully undertake the field class.
  • The trip itself lasts six full days (plus travel) and consists of a mix of staff-led, student-led and group-based project activities.

Please note that in the event of the field course not running (due to circumstances that compromise the feasibility of the trip), you will still be able to complete the module through the provision of an alternative learning experience.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module is designed to allow you to develop conceptual and practical understanding of key research themes and practices in physical geography. The learning content of this module aims to:

1. Enable you to acquire skills in measurement and analysis techniques
2. Develop leadership and group co-ordination through team-based field research
3. Give confidence in assessing the robustness of scientific evidence
4. Provide experience in designing and delivering verbal presentations
5. Develop problem-solving through quantitative data collection and analysis
6. Encourage critical assessment of appropriate methods for scientific data collection and processing.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Develop and apply critical, place-based understanding of selected physical geography themes
  • 2. Articulate and evaluate key debates, concepts and approaches for selected physical geography themes
  • 3. Design, execute, analyse and report on a piece of research for selected physical geography theme

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Apply geographical concepts and skills in different situations
  • 5. Identify a diverse range of approaches to the generation of knowledge and understanding in physical geography
  • 6. Apply techniques for interpreting geographical phenomena in place-based settings

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Work effectively in a group setting and develop group work skills
  • 8. Communicate complex ideas, concepts and theories
  • 9. Undertake self-directed and independent study
  • 10. Reflect on experiences and draw lessons for personal development

Syllabus plan

The syllabus will be delivered in a series of site visits and field lectures in Iceland. You will have two days to conduct an independent group project in a glacier foreland. Using a combination of GIS and field-based techniques, you will explore the following topics:

• Glaciers as climate indicators
• Landscape evolution
• Geothermal heat: hazards and opportunities
• Quantifying rates of environmental change

Details of specific locations, activities, and content of the fieldtrips will be issued during the previous semester.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Preparatory lecture and seminar sessions
Scheduled Learning and Teaching54Field trip – directed learning in the field and small group projects, evening discussion, analysis sessions, group discussions, student-led presentations
Guided Independent Study86Reading, research and completing coursework

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group pre-trip presentation presenting field strategy, plans and rationale10 minutes (including questions)1-10Oral
Group presentation on the trip, presenting preliminary field plans and observations10 minutes (including questions)1-10Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group annotated map with accompanying text commentary30Annotated map with 1,000 words limit1-4, 6-9Written
Individual field report702000 words limit1-6, 8-10Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group annotated map with accompanying text commentaryExercise based on pre-trip workshops 1000-words1-4, 6-9Referral/Deferral period
Individual field reportIndividual field report 2000-words project report1-6, 8-10Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

If you are unable to engage with any of the field course module assessments for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will be re-assessed for field work skills via the following assessments, to be submitted for the August deferral period:

• A 1000-word essay, related to key themes introduced in the pre-departure workshops
• A 2000-word project report, based upon desk-based research on a theme, site, or issue related to Iceland.

The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.
If you fail the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%), you will be required to submit a 1000-word project essay and a 2000-word project report. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Reading lists appropriate to each fieldtrip will be issued during the previous term.

Key words search

Field Course, Iceland

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

GEO2334 (Research Design in Physical Geography)

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date