What are Context Materials?

School of Geography, University of Leeds

Terminology is confusing and the terms ‘case study’ and ‘simulation’ are fairly widely used to describe learning materials which are quite different to the type that we aim to promote, so we will refer to learning materials that fit the Context model as context material, and define these thus:

Participative, degree subject based with a ‘real world’ setting

Context Material consists of case material (or a simulation) that

Materials typically involve participants working in teams, and applying a range of personal and interpersonal skills such as team working, information handling, problem identification, creative problem-solving, negotiation and action-planning. They provide participants with insights into work cultures as well as informing them about theory and practice.

Context material can be used to provide some of the learning situations of the workplace as well as additional dimensions. These include:

Context material is delivered as part of the curriculum:

Context material is developed within a partnership of academic staff and employers and provides:

Other advantages of using Context material include:

Context material and other ways of providing work experience are complementary and, when used together, provide the full range of learning outcomes which might also then include:

Previous Context cases created by Pauline Kneale look at student skills issues in various environmental and hydrological contexts. They can be downloaded from here. Anyone and everyone is invited to use them. Median, Seatons and SusDale have been used with staff and participants from all departments in the university, and for showing staff from all academic subjects how to run cases. They work with older and younger groups too. The Environment Agency for example use the cases we developed with them with schools, staff and the general public.

Please note that the academic subject areas indicate those for which the case was first developed, but most have wider uses. Median and Seatons for example have been used with all ages and subject specialists. If the aim is to enhance a skill it can in some cases be helpful to use a generic case, where the academic content doesn’t get in the way of the skills work.

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Median – a company orders a large computer system that doesn’t quite fit the needs on arrival. This is transferable to all subject areas for the skills enhancement and insight into intrapreneurship and management. IT students would enjoy this. The company business details could be customised to suit any subject. (A White Rose Science Enterprise Challenge case).

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Seatons – for geographers about a chemical factory dealing with pollution. This case considers decision making, skills issues, and shows that there are no ‘right’ answers.

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SusDale – for geographers, planners and others about issues occurring in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. This role play concerning sustainable development issues is transferable to other areas.

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River Lavant: flood forecasting A case study for geographers, hydrologists and the general public based on the River Lavant. This case leads to participants designing a conceptual flood forecasting model.

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A National Flood Warning Strategy – for geographers, hydrologists and the general public. Participants develop a national publicity scheme when resources are very limited. Again this could be adapted for other topic areas.

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Flood Warning – for geographers, hydrologists, environmental scientists etc. about planning a flood warning scheme in a hypothetical catchment with four contrasting landscapes. Multi-dimensional

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Flood forecasting template – used with students from all subjects and by the EA with the general public. This case looks at how criteria are derived for decision making using information about six flood defence options as background. Excellent for discussing decision making issues.

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