About Professor Simon Haslett

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Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom
Professor of Physical Geography and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wales and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Action Research Resources for Learning and Teaching

Yesterday I attended a masterclass by Professor Jack Whitehead at the University of Wales, Newport, on action research in learning and teaching, and I just thought I’d disseminate a few of the resources (they would be useful to know about for staff development as action research is an excellent way for improving one’s own teaching skills, and is an assessed part of many PGCert HE courses).

• Prof Whitehead has created a website http://www.actionresearch.net/ that hosts a number of free resources, including access to the theses of all his PhD students, which he calls Living Theory theses.

• There is a link to the open-access Educational Journal of Living Theories, which publishes multimedia peer-reviewed paper – it’s worth having a look at some of the titles as they are insightful.

• There is also a link to a JISCMail listserv you can sign up for to join the Practitioner-Researcher community.

• Finally, one of his co-workers, Jean McNiff, has a useful website too: http://www.jeanmcniff.com/

Monday, 17 January 2011

Great Flood of 1607: tsunami or storm?

Eddie Butler and Simon Haslett filming Hidden Histories

Woodcut of the 1607 flood

BBC2 Wales are broadcasting Hidden Histories on Thursday 20th January 2011 at 7.30pm featuring a piece about the theory I put forward with a colleague that the Great Flood of 1607 in the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel was actually caused by a tsunami and not a storm. I was interviewed by the programmes presenter, Eddie Butler, back early last summer, so will hopefully appear in the show. Given the continued public interest in this research I thought it would be worth repeating it here:
Professor Simon Haslett, Dean of the School of STEM at the University of Wales, and Dr Ted Bryant of the University of Wollongong (Australia) researched the possibility that a devastating coastal flood that struck southwest Britain in 1607 was caused by a tsunami. They published their tsunami theory in a paper in 2003 in the journal Archaeology in the Severn Estuary that hit the news and were subsequently involved in the filming of a BBC Timewatch programme Killer Wave of 1607 about it during summer 2004. The programme was broadcast April 2005 and attracted alot of public interest.

Ted Bryant being filmed for Killer Wave of 1607 
400 Years On!
The 400th anniversary of the 1607 flood was commemorated by a public scientific forum organised by Professor Haslett on the cause and impact of the 1607 coastal flooding event on Sat 27th January 2007 at the University of Wales, Newport. In addition, BBC2 repeated Timewatch Killer Wave of 1607 in January 2007 to coincide with the commemorative events, BBC Somerset Sound produced a special 2 hour programme, and BBC News featured it on the national and regional news.

Simon Haslett in the field filming Killer Wave of 1607
The 400 Years On! public forum included a distinguished panel of speakers: Professor Simon Haslett (then at Bath Spa University), Dr Ted Bryant (University of Wollongong, Australia), Dr Kevin Horsburgh (Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory), Dr Philippe Blondel (University of Bath), Richard Brunning (Somerset County Council), Dr Andrew Skellern (Bath Spa University), and Chaired by Dr Paul Davies (Bath Spa University). The forum was kindly sponsored by Aquatility.
 Also, it gives great satisfaction to see that the local communities of the Gwent Levels in South Wales have combined to commemorate Flood 400. The commemoration began Tuesday 30th January 2007 at Redwick Church. A weekend of events was held on 25-28th May 2007 at which Haslett and Bryant presented a poster. For more information visit the website.

Current thinking
Initial field and laboratory research undertaken by Professor Haslett and Dr Bryant to test their tsunami theory for the 1607 flood is published in 2007 in academic journals.

In the Journal of Geology (vol. 115, pp. 253-269), they presented evidence from erosional features and boulders that a large tsunami has almost certainly struck the coasts of the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary in the past. Evidence derived from rates of cliff retreat at Dunraven Bay, Glamorgan suggests that the 1607 event is a candidate for this tsunami.

In Marine Geology (vol. 242, pp. 207-220), evidence from coarse sediment layers throughout the region is examined and dated using the radiocarbon method. Whilst some coarse layers could have been deposited during the 1607 flood, layers featured on the BBC2 Timewatch programme at Rumney Great Wharf and in North Devon return radiocarbon dates that are too young to have been laid down by the 1607 flood, and are more likely to be the result of the Great Storm of 1703. However, this dating evidence from Rumney confirms a previous view that for some reason all the salt marshes fringing the Severn Estuary had been completely eroded away prior to the mid 17th century, possibly by the 1607 event.

Their current thinking is that a tsunami has indeed hit the shores of the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary sometime in the past, but although considerable evidence supports 1607 as the most likely candidate this cannot be confirmed, and perhaps there has been more than one tsunami. Indeed, after Haslett and Bryant published a major review they made a follow-up BBC2 Timewatch programme entitled Britain's Forgotten Floods, which was broadcasted in October 2008 that investigated a number of possible tsunami events that have affected other parts of the British Isles.

PLEASE Theory of Change Evaluation Framework

On the train to the Personal Learning Environments in Active field Science Evaluation (PLEASE) Advisory Board meeting in Birmingham. We’ve been asked to do some pre-meeting work by completing a Theory of Change components framework at the start of the project. Here are my thoughts under the three headings we’ve been asked to address:

Current Situation - This is based on my last experience of leading a student field course in 2007.

1. Fieldwork required a lot of pre-field planning and bulky resources to be transported:
2. Mobile library of books, papers, and maps.
3. A range of personal field equipment e.g. notebooks, cameras, compass, clinometers, hammer, trowels, knife, etc.
4. Extensive pre-field work planning assuming no information would be available in the field.
5. Assume little communication with the Department back home.
6. Takes time to make field data available, usually weeks/months, following field trip.
7. Paranoid about losing data in the field e.g. film canisters or memory cards, written notes, physical samples, etc.
8. Any students left back at the Department are ‘in the dark’ about what is going on in the field and little news in general back at the Department, so not doesn’t contribute to research culture in real time.
9. Difficult for students and tutors to communicate with each other in real time if not together in the field i.e. students undertaking lone field work (e.g. dissertation), or staff undertaking field research.
10. Only some regard for the environmental impact and sustainability of field work.

Desired Outcomes - I would appreciate guidance on how to:

1. Better communicate in real time in the field, including lecturing to and from the field.
2. Optimise and integrate the use of gadgets and equipment.
3. Optimise and integrate the use of online social media platforms.
4. Use field work in distance learning courses.
5. Convert real field work to virtual field work.
6. Archive field data and experience.
7. Share field resources e.g. as Open Educational Resources (OERs).
8. Maximise and integrate information collected e.g. geotagging, date, location.
9. Maximise the value of field learning under financial constraints i.e. value for money and value addedness.
10. Conduct more sustainable field work.

Longer-term impact - In the long-term I would like to see:

1. Wider use of field work in Higher Education as a learning device.
2. Better live communication between students and tutors to and from the field location.
3. An enhanced culture of sharing field resources e.g. OERs.
4. Growth in field work archives e.g. data, location details, including logistics.
5. Better integration of field work with teaching and learning situations e.g. go live to students in the field whilst in a lecture with other students. It would be great to ‘blur the boundaries’ between different Teaching and Learning contexts.
6. Field research for developing deep and autonomous learners with tutor and peer support.
7. All field work conducted with regard to the environment and sustainable development.

Student contract research reported in Times Higher Education

Research funded by the University of Wales, Newport, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) is featured in the current issue of Times Higher Education. The research on student contracts was undertaken by Dr Ruth Gaffney-Rhys and Joanna Jones of the Newport Business School and published in the journal Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education.