Concepts and Communication in the Early Stages of an Environmental Science Degree: A Case Study of Formative Activities and Tasks

Active Learning Strategies in Higher Education

ISBN: 978-1-78714-488-0, eISBN: 978-1-78714-487-3

Publication date: 19 April 2018


To meet the needs of the professional environment sector, environmental science graduates need to be suitably equipped in terms of their knowledge, understanding, and skills. At the University of Southampton, the first-year module Environmental Science: Concepts and Communication aids students in their journey into Environmental Science by preparing them to face the challenges of university study and beyond. This module thus engages students in independent learning and provides them with opportunities to develop and enhance the skills necessary to do so. Formative and student-led activities and tasks are considered important tools to achieve this aim. This review provides an overview of selected formative and student-led activities with focus on methods and approaches, values and benefits, and the practicalities of delivery. Three assessments are reviewed: a practice essay, a communication exercise, and a practice presentation. The intended benefits and value of these assessments are (1) engagement with environmental issues and topics and (2) development and enhancement of study skills. The value of such work is only realized, however, with student engagement. Delivering this module has demonstrated that formative elements are most effective when orientated to tutor group activities. Motivation for engagement appears most effective when the visibility – or absence – of students’ work is brought to the foreground through working in small groups. There is added value in that the collation and sharing of feedback within a small group permits students to learn not only from their own work but also from their peers.




The author would like to acknowledge and thank many and various colleagues who have contributed to the progressive development and enhancement of Environmental Science: Concepts and Communication over many years. Without their valuable and creative contributions, this module would have been very different.


Shaw, P. (2018), "Concepts and Communication in the Early Stages of an Environmental Science Degree: A Case Study of Formative Activities and Tasks", Misseyanni, A., Lytras, M., Papadopoulou, P. and Marouli, C. (Ed.) Active Learning Strategies in Higher Education, Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 107-131.

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