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BSc, MSc, PhD, PGCE, FRGS, NTF, PFHEA
Department of Social Sciences
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+44 (0)1865 483185
Helen Walkington is Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Social Sciences. She teaches Geography and carries out research into higher education pedagogy. Helen established the university-wide student experience project called
She has been a National Teaching Fellow since 2009 and one of the first people in the UK to be made a Principal Fellow of The Higher Education Academy in 2012. Helen is an experienced presenter of educational workshops and seminars and has given
numerous international conference keynote speeches on linking teaching and research and a ‘students as researchers’ pedagogy. Helen has published widely on pedagogy. She has worked as an advisor to universities, examination boards, The Higher
Education Academy and Quality Assurance Agency on aspects of teaching and learning. Helen has established numerous undergraduate research conferences and journals and has been a steering group member of the British Conference of Undergraduate
Research (BCUR) since its inception in 2010. She is co-chair of the Society for Research in Higher Education’s Academic Practice Network, co-chair of the International Network for Learning and Teaching (INLT), co-editor of the International desk for
the American journal
Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research
(SPUR), an editor for Higher Education Pedagogies, editor-in-chief of the journal
and an active editorial board member of the
Journal of Geography in Higher Education.
I have a variety of research interests which include-
This exemplary Handbook provides readers with a novel synthesis of international research, evidence-based practice and personal reflections to offer an overview of the current state of knowledge in the field of teaching geography in higher education. Chapters cover the three key transitions – into, through, and out of higher education – to present a thorough analysis of the topic.
This paper proposes ten salient practices of research mentoring activity in high school settings for teachers and technicians based upon survey and interview findings from 96 English and Scottish high school teachers from STEM disciplines, working in research collaborations with scientists. Mentoring high school research provides career development with teachers identifying new aspects to their professional roles including ‘teacher researcher’, ‘teacher scientist’ and ‘teacher mentor’. This study suggests the potential for using the ten salient practices to initiate individual teacher reflection and wider professional development, and, a way of framing and disseminating effective practice across the school sector.
In this short intervention we report on work in progress by Advance HE (formerly the Higher Education Academy) in collaboration with professional bodies such as the RGS, which seeks to respond to public concerns about ‘grade inflation’ in relation to degree outcomes. We present an updated analysis of degree outcomes in UK geography for 2010-2016 showing a strong correlation between average A-level points score on entry and the proportion of good degrees awarded by UK geography departments. We then go on to report on the results of pilot training activities within the discipline to increase the use of social calibration techniques as a means of providing transparent assurance about the high quality of assessment practices. We conclude that there is good reason to engage positively and actively with the public debate about academic standards and we make the case for regular social calibration exercises to share marking practices across multiple institutions as a potential means of ensuring consistency, reliability and clarity in academic standards.
This paper contributes to research on teaching excellence by extending the current body of literature pertaining to mentoring pedagogies in undergraduate research settings across diverse social, institutional and disciplinary contexts. Our data comes from in-depth interviews with 32 international faculty who have received excellence awards for undergraduate research mentoring. The data reveal a freedom - control dialectic, illuminating the ways in which expert mentors negotiate the desire to create opportunities for students to experience freedom and creativity in research, yet maintain control over the topic, quality and outcomes. The research findings reveal a defining characteristic of award-winning mentors as an ability to establish and sustain a sense of challenge, while maintaining meaningful engagement and a sense of achievement amongst students. The findings show the importance of tailoring practice to the needs of particular student groups, and there are implications for institutional resourcing, as well as mentor training and development.
Phytoremediation through forestry may be an effective means for reducing the metal loading in lands reclaimed after surface-coal-mining in the UK. Planted with mixed woodland, the soil loading of 5 key metals (Zn, Cd, Mn, Pb and Cu) decreased, significantly and progressively, compared to soils left as grassland through a 14 year forestation chronosequence on land reclaimed from the former Varteg opencast coalmine, South Wales. Fourteen years after initial tree planting, soil metal loadings decreased by 52% for Cd (4.3 mg∙kg−1 per year), 48% for Cu (2.1 mg∙kg−1 per year), 47% for Zn (7.3 mg∙kg−1 per year), 44% for Pb. (7.1 mg∙kg−1 per year) and 35% for Mn (45 mg.kg-1 per year). Analysis of metal loadings in the leaves of Alnus glutinosa (L. Gaertn) (Common Alder) and Betula pendula (Roth) (Silver Birch) found both to be involved in metal uptake with birch taking up more Cd, Cu, Zn and Mn and Alder more Pb. Concentrations of Zn, Mn and Cd (Birch only) increased significantly in leaves from, but not in soils, under older plantings. Since different tree species take up metals at different rates, mixed plantings may be more effective in forest phytoremediation.
This paper identifies salient practices of faculty mentors of undergraduate research
(UR) as indicated in the extensive literature of the past two decades on UR. The
well-established benefits for students involved in UR are dependent, first and foremost,
on high-quality mentoring. Mentorship is a defining feature of UR. As more
and different types of colleges and universities strive to meet student demand for
authentic scholarly experiences, it is imperative to identify what effective UR mentors
do in order to ensure student engagement, quality enhancement, retention, and
degree-completion. We offer an original analysis of the literature on UR mentoring in
which we identify 10 significant “lessons learned,” or evidence-based practices of
effective UR mentors that apply broadly across disciplines, students, institutions, and
Key to the understanding of Pleistocene human dispersals and settlement dynamics is knowledge about the distribution of human habitats in space and time. To add information about the characteristics of inhabited environments along the South Arabian dispersal route, this paper presents paleo-environmental data from deposits excavated at Jebel Faya (FAY-NE1) in the Emirate of Sharjah, UAE. The sedimentary sequence at FAY-NE1 spans a period of about 125,000 years, including the last interglacial and the Holocene. Particle size and phytolith content of samples from two sediment columns were analyzed, including both archaeology bearing layers and archaeologically sterile layers. The results demonstrate that human occupation of the site is related to pluvial periods. Assemblage C, dated to about 127–123 ka, was deposited during a wet phase with an environment characterized by an increased proportion of C3 grasses. Grassland with sedges but lacking tree cover characterize ecological conditions during the youngest of the Paleolithic occupation periods, Assemblage A, dated to about 45–40 ka. Environmental conditions during periods lacking archaeological remains are characterized by the absence of vegetation cover during phases of desiccation. There is no evidence for human presence at the site between 38 and 11 ka.
Despite the present hyper-aridity, archaeological investigations in South-east Arabia have demonstrated that the region supported extensive human communities throughout the Neolithic and Bronze Age. These early populations utilised the region’s natural environment in a variety of ways, ranging from the exploitation of coastal resources to practicing pastoral and agrarian lifestyles in the interior. Palaeoclimate data suggests the corresponding period was characterised by considerable climatic variability yet, to date, few studies have attempted to investigate the relationship between climate, the environment and early human populations in the region. This paper combines new high-resolution palaeoclimate data from Awafi palaeolake, United Arab Emirates (UAE), with the region’s archaeological record from the Neolithic through to the onset of the Bronze Age. The evidence presented in this paper suggests that the environment of South-east Arabia offered different constraints and opportunities for early human occupation and subsistence. In particular, abrupt phases of aridity are demonstrated to have had a profound impact. Most notable is the change which occurred following the onset of climatic aridity at 5900calyr BP, when the region’s semi-nomadic, herder-gatherer populations abandoned much of the landscape and concentrated in selected environmental refugia, such as along the northern Omani coast. Human repopulation during the Bronze Age coincided with a return to more pluvial conditions under which a network of oasis agricultural settlements appeared along the piedmont zone of the northern Hajar Mountains.
This article considers the rationale for embedding research and enquiry skills early in the undergraduate geography curriculum and for making these skills explicit to students. A survey of 52 international geography faculty identified critical thinking, framing research questions, reflectivity and creativity as the most challenging research skills to teach early in the undergraduate curriculum. This article provides a range of practical examples illustrating research skill teaching from geography courses internationally. The case studies demonstrate that by embedding research skill development early, scaffolding provided throughout a degree programme can support geography students as they become producers of knowledge.
This chapter describes a ‘students as researchers’ pedagogy outlining teaching practices, the contexts in which it can be adopted, and levels of student engagement that can be achieved in terms of participation and ownership of the research process. Disseminating results is an integral part of the research process in which students should be involved. The chapter provides empirical data contrasting the student learning gains from writing for a national undergraduate research journal, GEOverse, with presenting and participating at student research conferences. This is the first time that the two research dissemination formats have been compared empirically. The chapter provides suggestions for linking and scaffolding research experiences and dissemination opportunities through a programme level approach. The chapter closes with a discussion of the academic staff (faculty) role in the supervision and mentoring of student research and begins to explore the characteristics of effective research mentors.
The borderland spaces concept offers a powerful means for representing and reframing educational discourses (Hill et al, 2016). It encourages a relational examination of pedagogic spaces, identities and practices, inter-weaving the three socio-spatial perspectives of Barnett (2011): physical and material, educational, and interior. Through exploration and exemplification of borderland spaces we demonstrate that learning is both situated and embodied (Boddington and Boys, 2011). Physical locations are used in different ways by a diversity of staff and students, and this can establish productive relationships between space and learning. In this chapter we present a case study of undergraduate students disseminating their research in a novel professional setting, exposing their experiences of learning in a borderland space.
In Danish -
Opening Keynote (2016)
‘Knowledge creation - a dialogic approach: the power of networks and networking, mentors and mentoring.’
Society for Research in Higher Education Newer Researchers Conference 2017, Celtic Manor, Wales.
Reviewer for Quaternary International, Journal of Archaeological Science, Journal of Quaternary Science, Higher Education Research and Development, Teaching and Learning Inquiry, Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, Journal of
Geography in Higher Education, Studies in Higher Education, Higher Education Pedagogies.