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Introduction and Background

porlock marsh

The coast at Porlock Bay is an iconic location for students to grapple with and ultimately grasp some of the complex realities involved in managing physical processes.  

Here the coastline has been shaped and reshaped over millennia by geomorphological processes and relatively recently human intervention has endeavoured to, at least in part, control them.  Twenty years ago a radical and far reaching decision was made to intervene no further and to allow the coastline to shift and evolve naturally.  The background and possible implications of this decision are explored in depth in this investigation.  The enquiries will both support students of geography and their teachers undertaking an individual geographical research investigation at A Level and also inform and add value to studies of coastal processes and management at undergraduate level.  It can be used equally effectively as an entirely independent ‘distance learning’ case study module, in combination with some class based teacher directed learning and as a whole group precursor to undertaking fieldwork at Porlock Bay.    

Through a series of detailed and structured ancillary questions students are supported to both construct knowledge and understanding and also to evaluate and question decision making.  Students are asked at regular intervals to "consolidate their thinking" before moving on to the next ancillary question.  This ensures that they have time to reflect on what they have learned and the perspectives and rationale of those who have determined what has occurred at Porlock Bay in the past, together with those who seek to shape the direction of management in the future. As students’ complete the ancillary questions they are introduced in a measured way to increasingly more complex concepts and abstract ideas, ensuring that towards the end of the investigation they are in a position to make informed decisions which they can both justify and critique.