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GEOG100 - Changing Planet Earth

Unit rationale, description and aim

The study of our planet’s natural environments, and the processes that shape and change them, is critical to understanding the fundamental systems that affect our lives (e.g. water, energy, climate, weather, natural resources, biodiversity, oceans).

In this foundation unit in geography, environment and society (GES), students will develop an understanding of the connections between society and the environment, and how patterns and changes in landforms, soils, plants and animals, oceans and waterways are connected and interdependent at different scales. Environmental change, and the inseparable nature of society and the environment, is highlighted by examining cutting-edge global research and the study of current and future environmental management issues that are central to geography. Field work is an exciting and integral aspect of GEOG110, and students will have opportunities to complete outdoor learning and investigations where you explore and observe the environments you have been studying, develop key geographical skills, and to learn first-hand about key environmental processes and systems.

The aim of this unit is to develop your understanding of the world around us and the forces that shape the environments of our planet, while providing you with key geographic knowledge and skills useful for later levels of study in geography, environment and society, and in other subject areas. This unit is designed for any student who wants to better understand how our planet functions.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Describe how processes of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere and their interaction contribute to the evolution of the Earth’s surfaceGC1, GC9, GC11
LO2Collect, identify and interpret geographic information from literature, graphs, maps, remotely sensed images and statisticsGC2, GC3, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10
LO3Examine the connections between humans and the environmentGC1, GC2, GC5, GC6, GC7
LO4Develop skills in fieldwork including teamwork, observation, recording and evaluation of geographical dataGC3, GC4, GC8, GC10
LO5Summarise and communicate geographical ideas and information in written and oral formsGC1, GC2, GC3, GC9, GC11, GC12


Topics will include:

  • Earth, a brief history: the Big Bang, the Solar System, the sun, the moon, and, the seasons
  • What is time, and how does it work? Location systems (latitude and longitude), maps and GPS, time (AM and PM) and time zones
  • Earth’s building blocks: Plate tectonics, geological processes, rocks and minerals
  • The four spheres: lithosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere
  • An introduction to weather and climate and its impact on landscapes
  • The global water cycle and water resource management
  • Soils, their formation and how they support humanity
  • Earth’s oceans and coastal environments
  • The biosphere, biodiversity and integrated social-ecological systems
  • Indigenous environmental knowledge and ways of viewing the natural world

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit uses face-to-face instruction during class. The in-class lecture component is used to convey new material and offer students the chance to engage and ask questions in person. The tutorial portion of the course is to be used as a resource to offer students the opportunity to put their knowledge learned in lectures to use and gain hands-on experience and learn and practice geographical skills. At times, field work may be conducted instead of scheduled tutorials and lectures. 

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks for this unit have been designed to contribute to high quality student learning by both helping students learn (assessment for learning), and by measuring explicit evidence of their learning (assessment of learning). Assessments have been developed to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. These have been designed so that they use a variety of tasks to measure the different learning outcomes at a level suitable for first year study in geography. Weekly tutorials give you the opportunity to learn and practice different geographical skills, and then use these to identify and interpret geographical sources. Skill development will be assessed via short quizzes available via the GEOG100 Canvas site, with feedback provided rapidly so you and your lecturer can track your progress in skill development. The field work research project requires students to demonstrate, develop and apply key geographical and research skills to the understanding of the processes that influence patterns of human activity. The final assessment, an end of semester examination, requires students to demonstrate their understanding of the topics covered in this unit and also the research, communication, and geographical skills they have developed.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Skills development tasks: in this series of tasks through the semester, students will collect, identify and interpret geographical information from graphs, maps, remotely sensed images and/or statistics to describe the processes responsible for the evolution of the environment.


LO1, LO2

Research project: This task requires students to undertake fieldwork and develop skills in planning, observation, recording, sampling, analysis and evaluation, and reflect on the human impact on the environment.


LO3, LO4, LO5

Examamination: Formal semester-end examination where students will be required to

(a) describe how geographical processes shape the Earth’s surface,

(b) interpret geographical information from a range of sources, such as graphs, maps, imagery, and statistics, and

(c) summarise and communicate geographical ideas and information 


LO1, LO2, LO5

Representative texts and references

Bridgeman, H, Dragovich, D and Dodson, J. 2008. The Australian Physical Environment. Oxford University Press, South Melbourne.

Cahir, F., Ian Clark, and Philip Clarke, 2018. Aboriginal Biocultural Knowledge in South-eastern Australia: Perspectives of Early Colonists. CSIRO PUBLISHING.

Christopherson, R.W. and Birkeland, 2019. Elemental Geosystems (9th edition). Pearson, Upper Saddle River.

Goudie, A.S. 2018. The Human Impact on the Natural Environment (8th Edition). John Wiley & Sons.

Hay, I. 2012. Communicating in Geography and the Environmental Sciences (4th edition). Oxford University Press, South Melbourne.

Hess, D and Tasa, D. 2022. McKnight's Physical Geography: a Landscape Appreciation (13th edition). Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River.

Holden, J. 2017. An Introduction to Physical Geography and the Environment (4th edition). Pearson, UK.

McGrath A, and Jebb, M.A. (eds), 2015. Long history, deep time: deepening histories of place. ANU Press, Canberra

Mayhew, S. 2015. A Dictionary of Geography (5th edition). Oxford, London.

Strahler, A.N. 1974. Physical Geography. Wiley, New York

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