Module Catalogue 2024/25

GEO1020 : Introduction to Physical Geography

GEO1020 : Introduction to Physical Geography

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Andrew Russell
  • Lecturer: Dr Stuart Dunning, Professor Neil Ross, Professor Rachel Carr
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System

Modules you must have done previously to study this module

Pre Requisite Comment



Modules you need to take at the same time

Co Requisite Comment




Physical Geography is a fundamental component of Geography. Understanding of the Physical Environment is essential for all Geographies as it underpins environmental management and gives essential context to, and widens our understanding of, patterns of human activity. Physical Geographical knowledge informs human interactions with a changing and dynamic environment. This module provides a ‘spring-board’ for more specialised Physical Geography modules in stages 2 & 3.

Aim: to provide an introduction to Physical Geography.

Specific aims:
(1) To provide an introduction to Earth’s main physical systems, with a focus on the Cryosphere, Hydrosphere, Biosphere and Lithosphere.
(2) To provide understanding of the causes of change within these systems over a range of timescales.
(3) To provide an introduction to the methods and approaches used in Physical Geographical investigation.
(4) To provide understanding of how the study of Physical Geography can address pressing environmental and societal challenges.
(5) To showcase the breadth of research-led teaching at Newcastle and provide the foundation to follow these Physical Geography themes through the degree.
(6) To provide an introduction to the main modes of assessment that will be used to investigate the natural world at University level and beyond – essays and practical reports.
(7) To provide an understanding of the role of Physical Geographers in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Outline Of Syllabus

Environment and climate changes of the past
The Cryosphere
Fluvial processes and landforms
The Biosphere
Geohazards and risk

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

(1) Understanding of the nature and scope of Physical Geography.
(2) Understanding of methods and techniques employed by Physical Geographers.
(3) Understanding of the Earth’s major natural systems.
(4) Understanding of the relationship between processes and forms with a range of process domains and across a range of time-scales.
(5) Understanding of how the Earth’s major systems have changed in the past over a range of timescales.
(6) Understanding of the importance of Physical Geographical knowledge for human activity and environmental management.

Intended Skill Outcomes

1. Ability to synthesise and summarise information from literature.
2. Ability to evaluate competing arguments and approaches to physical geography problems.
3. Ability to interpret and critically analyse data about the natural world.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture231:0023:00PIP
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1137:00137:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities41:004:00Structured Guided Learning - Asynchronous Online
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery21:002:00Drop-ins to support Structured Guided Learning Activities. PIP
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time31:003:00Q&A and feedback sessions- Live online
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time11:001:00Virtual tour of lab and equipment
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will provide an overview of the principals of Physical Geography across a range of environments. Lectures will be grouped into five thematic blocks that reflect Physical Geography staff expertise and pathways through Stages 2 and 3.

Structured Guided Learning Activities will allow students to enhance their learning by engaging with varied datasets about the natural world.

Timetabled drop-in sessions will provide a set time for students to work through the data interpretation tasks in the Structured Guided Learning Activities, and allow them to discuss these topics and raise questions with staff.

Timetabled Q & A sessions will allow students to discuss the lecture content thereby consolidating their learning.

A virtual lab tour will allow students to engage with the facilities, techniques and equipment introduced in the lectures and to be used on future field courses.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Digital Examination14401A50Combination of A) multiple-choice questions and B) a short essay. 24-hour window to complete digital exam.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M50Students to choose one of three structured guided learning exercises to write up as a practical report. Instructions will be provided by mid-term, and the report deadline will be in the Jan assessment period.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Digital exam (Part A: multiple choice questions; Part B: short essay) will test students' understanding of the physical geography processes and theories introduced in the lectures and supported by independent reading.

The assessed practical report will test students' ability to synthesise and interpret geographical datasets relating to content from the lectures and the structured guided learning activities, supported by independent research.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes

Live-online lectures will be given by Professor Darrel Maddy, who will not be teaching on campus due to health reasons.

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The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2024 academic year.

In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described.

Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2025/26 entry will be published here in early-April 2025. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.