HERODOT Thematic Network and the Tuning of Geography Education in

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There are still aspects of this project which require further review: for           skills into a fi rst year practical geogra p hy curri c u l u m ’ , J o u rnal of
example, some groups’ projects did not focus on the more spatial                    Geography in Higher Education, 16(1): pp. 7-19
aspects of their topic (maybe their Sociology or Anthropology courses
                                                                                    Waddington, S. B. (2001) ‘Working with the Community: improving
were influential). However, overall, the project did achieve the basic
                                                                                    the learning experience for large classes’, Journal of Geography in Higher
aim of allowing students to develop their own research skills, and
                                                                                    Education, 25(1): pp. 67-82.
g e n e ra l ly seemed to provide sufficient structure to give them the
c o n fidence to carr y out original research. An advantage of this
approach is that it is extremely flexible, providing enough freedom to
                                                                                    Shelagh Waddington
allow vir tually every student to find something of personal interest,
                                                                                    National University of Ireland, Maynooth
without leaving the choice so open that staff would be unable either to
provide appropriate support or to be qualified to judge the results.It is
planned that a similar project will be under t a ken in the curr e n t
academic year – when class size has increased again and there will be
200 par ticipants.                                                                   Editor's Note
                                                                                     If you have par ticular views on this art i c l e, and any others in
                                                                                     PLANET, then why not contact the editor (
 Skill area                         1998-1999           2002-2003
                                                                                     and express your ideas.
                                    (before revision)   (after revision)

 ICT                                52%                 83%

 Team working                       90%                 97%

 Written communication              50%                 79%                          HERODOT Thematic Network and the
 Oral communication                 78%                 93%
                                                                                     Tuning of Geography Education in
 Data collection                    72%                 93%

 Research planning/aims/                                                            Glenda Wall and Karl Donert, Liverpool Hope
 objectives                         78%                 94%                         University College
 Data analysis and synthesis        62%                 96%
 Reaching conclusions               78%                 90%
                                                                                    This article outlines the aims and role of the European HERODOT Thematic
 Total respondents                  35                  158                         Network for Geography in Higher Education. It focuses in particular on one
                                                                                    of the project’s research pillars, which considers Europeanisation in Geography
                                                                                    and the curriculum. The Tuning of academic subjects, through subject specific
Table 1. Student recognition of skills developed during the project before          Thematic Networks, addresses several of the recommendations of the
and after the project was revised.                                                  Bologna Declara t i o n . This pillar is currently undertaking a sur vey of
                                                                                    academics, students and employers in order to identify the importance placed
                                                                                    on both subject specific and generic competences. The outcome of this
Conclusions                                                                         research is the self-Tuning of Geography in Europe leading ultimately to
The major lessons learned in carrying out these group projects was                  curriculum changes and course developments based upon an increased
that greater freedom for the students to make decisions about their                 awareness of the needs of employers.
learning and ways of working led to a much more positive experience
for both the students themselves and the staff invo l ve d . T h e                  Introduction
participants developed their skills and confidence in their own abilities
(and learned about both the satisfactions and the fru s t rations of                The HERODOT Thematic Network
carrying out research). The staff member received real reinforcement
                                                                                    HERODOT is the European Geography Network of higher education
for her stated belief that students generally wished to do well and were
                                                                                    institutions. At its outset in October 2002 it had just 42 partner
willing to carr y out work when they were actively engaged in the
                                                                                    organisations. This number has continued to expand and at the end of
                                                                                    its fi rst year reached over 100 higher education Geogra p hy and
The temptation when faced with large classes is to make the work                    environmental studies departments and geographical associations, with
carried out as structured as possible, since this apparently makes the              representation in 30 European countries (European Union, European
logistics easier. However, as this paper suggests, the need to deal with            Economic Areas and candidate countries). The members of HERODOT
large numbers can provide the impetus to try out ‘freer’approaches to               have begun to establish links by working directly and indirectly with
learning and,as such,lead to a more satisfactory and successful learning            national, European and multinational organisations and associations in
experience for all concerned.                                                       the field of Geography and in geographical education. The purpose of
                                                                                    the HERODOT Thematic Network is to establish a trans-national forum
References                                                                          for the study, a n a lysis and development of Geogra p hy in higher
                                                                                    education and to promote the professional development of Geography
Cotton, J. (1995) The theor y of learning stra t eg i e s : an introduction,        teachers and lecturers. HERODOT thus plans to enhance co-operation,
London: Kogan Page                                                                  encourage mobility between countries and share information and
K n e a l e, P. (1996) Organising st udent-centred group fi e l d wo r k            expertise between higher education institutions. HERODOT functions as
presentations, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 20(1): pp. 65-74.          a focus of activity in matters concerning geographical education in
Healey, M. (1992) ‘Curriculum development and ‘Enterprise’: group
wo rk , resource-based learning and the incorporation of transferable
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The aims of HERODOT are to:                                                              identify areas of common reference and understanding (Tuning Project,
                                                                                         2002b). In other words, tuning within higher education subject areas,
•       D e velop strategies and methods to strengthen coopera t i o n
                                                                                         whilst co-ordinated by academic staff from different countri e s , i s
        between education institutions and organisations in Europe;
                                                                                         designed to be a university driven and independent action (Tuning
•       C o n t ri bute to des cr i p t i o n s , a n a lyses and compar isons of        Project, 2002b).
        Geography and geographical education programmes and policies
                                                                                         O ri g i n a l ly the Tuning of Educational Structures in Europe Project
        in Europe;
                                                                                         ( Tuning Project, 2002a) sur ve yed the subject areas of Business
•       Strengthen the links between research, professional training and                 A d m i n i s t ra t i o n , Education Sciences, Geology, History, Mathematics,
        geographical education in Europe.                                                P hysics and Chemistr y (Doner t , 2 0 0 3 ) . In 2002, the European
                                                                                         Commission recommended that similar Tuning should now take place
Through the H E RO D OT P r o j e c t , three issues of common interest                  throughout other (various) educational disciplines (EUROPA, 2002)
(Thematic Pillars) have been established and further developed. These                    and that this activity was best undertaken through the subject specific
are (1) Eu ropeanisation of the Cur riculum (2) Pro fe s s i o n a l                     Socrates-Erasmus Thematic Networks of which HERODOT is one.
Development and (3) Exciting Geography. In this way, aspects of the
training of Geography academics, suited to changes in a wider Europe,                    The initial focus of Tuning is to identify points of reference for both
are being promoted and enhanced. Through the comparative analysis                        generic and subject- specific competencies and skills (EUROPA, 2002)
of par ticipating countri e s , c u rriculum development and teaching                    and to under take comparisons of the opinions and expectations of
innovation are being encouraged and disseminated.                                        a c a d e m i c s , g raduates and employe rs within discipline areas. T h e
                                                                                         competences are developed and defined for testing by the academic
Thematic Pillar 1 (TP1) is looking at Europeanisation of Geography and                   subject-based team. They describe discrete learning outcomes, (i.e.)
the cur riculum. As part of its remit TP1 has undertaken to complete
                                                                                         what a student knows or is able to demonstrate upon the completion
an analysis of competences in Geography higher education courses in
                                                                                         of a learning process (Gonzalez and Wa g e n a a r, 2 0 0 3 ) . T h e s e
E u r o p e, based on the Tuning approach (Gonzalez and Wa g e n a a r,                  competences can then be used as points of reference possibly for
2003a).                                                                                  curriculum evaluation and design. They should allow flexibility and
                                                                                         autonomy in curriculum construction whilst at the same time providing
The Bologna Declaration                                                                  a common language in describing curriculum aims (Tuning Project,
In June 1999 higher education Ministers from 29 European countries                       2002b).
signed the 'Bologna Declaration'. Review meetings were subsequently
held in Prague in May 2001 and Berlin in September 2003. Its goal is                     Survey of academics, students and employers
defined as 'creating a European space for higher education by 2010,                      Initial discussions related to the Tuning sur vey took place at the
which will enhance employabilit y and in crease intern a t i o n a l                     HERODOT launch conference at the RGS-IBG in London, in March
competitiveness of European higher education' (European Commission,                      2003. A member of the original Tuning Project led a workshop, which
1993). The Bologna process is not seen as a means of standardising
                                                                                         addressed the principles and approaches that had been adopted.
higher education. It respects the principle of diversity and autonomy
                                                                                         Following this, a working group of geographers from six countries met
(European Commission, 1999) and as such will not be imposed upon                         to decide on the details of the Tuning pilot study that would be
national governments or higher education institutions.The aims of the                    undertaken in 2003-4 and to identify the generic and subject-specific
Bologna Process include implementation of quality assurance; adoption                    competencies necessary to undertake the Geography Tuning survey.
of a degree structure based on two main cycles (bachelors, masters);
promotion of student and staff mobility; establishment of a system of                    The Pilot sur vey star ted in October 2003 and the following nine
credits; recognition of comparable degrees; lifelong learning; promotion                 universities are involved at this stage:
of the European dimension in higher education and increasing the
                                                                                         •    Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain
attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area (Gonzalez and
Wagenaar, 2003a).                                                                        •    Constantine the Philosopher University of Nitra, Slovakia
                                                                                         •    Liverpool Hope University College, United Kingdom
Tuning of Educational Structures in Europe
                                                                                         •    Nicholas Copernicus University in Torun, Poland
The Bologna process aims to create an integrated higher education
area in Europe. It is this process together with the wider context of                    •    University Bordeaux 3, France
rapid social change in Europe, reflecting upon higher education                          •    University of Iceland
(Gonzalez and Wagenaar, 2003a), that led to the development of
'Tuning'.The increasing mobility of students has highlighted the need for                •    University of Karlsruhe, Germany
c o m p e t i t i ve n e s s , c o m p a rability and compatibility within higher
                                                                                         •    University of Malta
education (Gonzalez and Wagenaar, 2003b), with students seeking
reliable information on the programmes of education on offer to them.                    •    University of Tartu, Estonia
This is coupled with the need of future employers both at European
                                                                                         Each institution involved with the pilot study will survey at least 25
and wider international levels to have clear information on what higher
                                                                                         academics and graduates from subject departments in their country in
education qualifications stand for in practice (Gonzalez and Wagenaar,
                                                                                         addition to known employers of geography graduates.The survey itself
2003b). Tuning therefore is a mechanism that allows the analysis of
                                                                                         takes the form of a short questionnaire outlining a list of subject-
higher education cour ses to be under t a ken in terms o f th e
                                                                                         specific (Table 1) and generic competences (Table 2).Respondents are
expectations (of academics), the outcomes (of graduates) and the
                                                                                         asked to rank the ten most important generic competences and in
needs (of employers).
                                                                                         addition to comment on any other competences that they feel are
Tuning aims to initiate Europe-wide convergence within geography                         important. Those competences that are considered to be the most
higher education.The content of study programmes and their structure                     impor tant can then be used as points of reference by Geography
is the focus of Tuning, not the educational system itself, which is by and               D e p a r tments as an aid to design relevant curricula and in the
large a national government issue. The protection of diversity within                    construction of appropriate qualifications (Gonzalez and Wagenaar,
European education is considered to be vital (Gonzalez and Wagenaar,                     2003b).This will allow flexibility whilst protecting autonomy in curricula
2003b). Thus, rather than prescribing European curricula,Tuning aims to                  development.

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 Comprehend the reciprocal relationships between physical and                   Appreciation of diversity and multiculturality
 human environments
                                                                                Ability to work in an international context
 Comprehend the significance of spatial relationships at various scales
                                                                                Ability to work on their own
 Understand and explain the diversity and interdependence of
 regions, places and locations                                                  Ability to work on own initiative

 Draw knowledge, understanding and diversity of approaches from                 Project design and management
 other disciplines and apply them in a geographical context
                                                                                Concern for quality
 Apply an understanding of geographical concepts
 Interpret landscapes
                                                                                An entrepreneurial spirit
 Collect, compare, analyse and present geographical information
                                                                                Commitment to work related ethics
 Appropriately use geographical terminology
                                                                                A systematic approach to accuracy and precision
 Communicate geographical ideas, principles and theories effectively
                                                                                Dealing with uncertainty
 and fluently by written, oral and visual means

 Use diverse, specialised techniques and approaches in Geography               Table 2. Generic Competencies
 Comprehend the nature of change

 Appreciate representations of geographical space and different                HERODOT’s Europeanisation group will collate the results of the pilot
 geographical representations                                                  survey.Their findings will be discussed at length during the next meeting
                                                                               of the group in Tartu, Estonia in June 2004 (
                                                                               The sur vey of competences will be used in defining commonly
Table 1. Subject Specific Competencies                                         accepted learning outcomes and to enhance professional profi l e s
                                                                               (EUROPA, 2003). Through sharing experiences and identification of
                                                                               good practice (Tuning Project, 2002c) transparency of diffe ri n g
 Capacity for analysis and synthesis
                                                                               educational structures will allow and encourage innovation and quality.
 Capacity for applying knowledge in practice                                   At this time the full Tuning methodology will be finalised so that the
                                                                               survey can be under taken throughout Europe involving HERODOT
 Planning and time management                                                  par tner institutions. The results from this sur vey will be published
 General knowledge in the field of study                                       together with the findings and recommendations. It should be noted
                                                                               that tuning groups have no authority and changes to curriculum will not
 Knowledge of the profession in practice                                       be forced upon higher education institutions and recommendations are
                                                                               meant to be helpful guidelines only. However, the issue of Tuning is
 Oral and written communication in the national language(s)                    n ow considered to be of impor tance by all European education
                                                                               Ministers, particularly with regard to the higher education curriculum
 Knowledge of other languages                                                  reflecting the needs of employers in an increasingly global marketplace.
 Use of information and communications technology
 Research skills                                                               The Tuning of academic subjects provides an opportunity to compare
                                                                               and contrast the opinions on, and outcomes of, undergraduate study
 Information management skills (ability to retrieve and analyse
                                                                               across Europe , as the Bologna Process encourages systems to become
 information from different sources)
                                                                               harmonised (European Commission,2003a). It is hoped that the results
 Critical and self-critical abilities                                          of this sur vey will enable European Geogra p hy depar tments to
                                                                               become more aware of the needs of their graduates in the workplace
 Capacity to adapt to new situations                                           and the relevance of key skills to employers (Van Ernst et al., 2001)
                                                                               resulting in the preparation of relevant curriculum change in an
 Capacity for generating new ideas (creativity)                                enlarging Europe.
 Problem solving                                                               In 2004, a number of HERODOT members intend to apply for further
                                                                               funds to develop a distance lear nin g European module fo r
 Decision-making                                                               undergraduate Geography, based on the outcomes of this survey, and
                                                                               the perceived needs of employers which will seek to address the
 Teamwork                                                                      specific learning objectives of students and the relationship between
                                                                               academia, learners and businesses (Van Ernst et al., 2001).
 Interpersonal skills
                                                                               Further information on the thematic pillars’ activities is available on the
 Leadership                                                                    HERODOT Web site ( HERODOT Thematic
                                                                               Network is funded under the Socrates-Erasmus Thematic Netwo rk s
 Ability to work in an interdisciplinary team
                                                                               action (European Commission, 2003b). The grants awarded support
 Ability to communicate effectively with non-experts (in the field)            conference attendance, meetings and research activities of the network

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Endnote                                                                                                                             Gonzalez, J. and Wagenaar, R. (2003a) Tuning Educational Structures in
                                                                                                                                    Europe summary EUA conference.
Any institution interested in joining HERODOT or in taking part in this                                                             pdf, [Accessed November 2, 2003]
Tuning Survey should contact the authors.
                                                                                                                                    Gonzales, J. and Wagenaar, R. (2003b) Tuning Educational Structures in
References                                                                                                                          E u r o p e : Final Report Pilot Project – Phase I h t t p : / / o d u r. l e t . ru g . u l /
                                                                                                                                    TuningProject [Accessed November 5, 2003]
D o n e r t K (2003), H E RO D OT : a Thematic Network for Geogra p h y
departments in Higher Education, Proc. IGU 2003 UK Conference,                                                                      Tuning Project (2002a) Tuning Educational Structures in Europe:
Institute of Education London, April 26-27, 213-9                                                                                   Background Project/background.asp,
                                                                                                                                    [Accessed October 27, 2003]
E U RO PA (2002) Tuning Ed ucation al Str uctures i n Europe                                                               Tunin g Project (2002b) Tuning web site h t t p : / / w w w. l e t . ru g . n l ?
tml, [Accessed November 2, 2003]                                                                                                    TunngProject, [Accessed March 10, 2003]

European Commission (1993), White Paper on growth, competitiveness                                                                  Tuning Project (2002c) Tuning Educational Structures in Europe:Aims and
and employment: the challenges and ways forward into the 21st century,                                                              Objectives h t t p : / / o d u r. l e t . ru g . n l / Tu n i n g P r o j e c t / a i m s & o b j e c t i ve s . a s p
Commission of the European Communities, Brussels                                                                                    [Accessed November 3, 2003]

European Commission (1999), The Bologna Declaration, http://europa.                                                                 Van Ernst, B., Paterson, H. Langworthy, A., Costello, B. and Jones. M., [Accessed March                                                                 (2001) ‘Of Boxes and Bridges:A quality experience in the interface of
10 2003]                                                                                                                            higher education and workplace’ Assessment & Evaluation in Higher
                                                                                                                                    Education, 26(5): 437-448
European Commission (2003a), The Bologna Process: Next Stop Berlin in
2 0 0 3, h t t p : / / e u r o p a . e u . i n t / c o m m / e d u c a t i o n / p o l i c i e s / e d u c / b o l o g n a /
bologna_en.html, [Accessed November 5, 2003]                                                                                        Glenda Wall and Karl Donert
Euro pean Commission (2003b), Thematic Networ k Proj ects,                                                                          HERODOT Thematic Network for Geography in Higher Education                                                                 Liverpool Hope University College
n.html, [Accessed November 5, 2003]                                                                                       

                  Membership to HERODOT
                          is FREE
                   and open to all Higher
                   Education Geography
                     Departments and
                  Geographical Associations
                       within Europe

                      Funding is available for
                     eligible partners wishing
                          to participate in
                          HERODOT and
                     associated conferences
                          and workshops