GEOG325 – The human dimension of disasters

GEOG325 – The human dimension of disasters

This 15-point course provides an overview of the human dimension of disasters. It covers crucial concepts and theories, vulnerability and the causes of disasters, people’s capacities and response to disasters, disaster risk reduction and management and post-disaster recovery. The course also emphasises the policy and practical outcomes of theoretical debates. Discussions draw upon examples and case studies from throughout the world with a particular focus on the most vulnerable and marginalised areas and communities. This course is based around lectures and participatory activities which actively involve the students in the learning process. Tutorials provide additional insights through film showing and practical activities such as role games. Furthermore case studies will be used often to illustrate theoretical and methodological discussions. A treasure hunt throughout Auckland provides the students with a first-hand experience in dealing with potential disasters and associated social issues.


GEOG325 consists of one 2h and one 1h lectures a week and seven compulsory 1h tutorials during the semester. In addition, it includes one 2h class on the beach and one half-day field activity (final stage of the treasure hunt) on two different Saturdays. The course will be offered in semester 2 in 2016.


Learning Outcomes

At the end of the semester, the students are able to:

1/ use the right concepts in the right place

2/ understand why disasters occur and why their impact is unequal

3/ master the main principles of disaster risk reduction and management

4/ recognise the main tools for policy and practice related to disaster risk reduction and management, and post-disaster recovery

5/ provide concrete, articulated and varied examples of disasters, their cause, their impact, and the remedial measures which have been considered in response


Learning Process

The course revolves around four principles to facilitate students’ learning:

1/ it is grounded in the reality of the world and therefore combines theoretical, policy and practical materials;

2/ it forces students to think out of the box and be creative and therefore encourages critical thinking;

3/ it emphasises the learning process as much as the outcomes through active students’ participation;

4/ learning should be fun and enjoyable.

These four principles are in line with the university graduate profile, notably points II.1. (which fosters critical, conceptual and reflective thinking), II.2. (which encourages intellectual openness and curiosity), II.3. (which promotes creativity and originality) and III.1. (which advances enjoyable learning).







Coursework and Assessment

Treasure hunt: road book (15%) and slideshow + oral presentation (15%)

Poster (30%)

Two-hour in-class final test (35%)

Compulsory attendance to tutorials (5%)








Teaching Staff

The course is coordinated and mainly taught by JC Gaillard in collaboration with Dan Hikuroa, Loic Le Dé and a couple of guest lecturers. Alice McSherry and Tanay Amirapu are the course tutors.


What Previous Students Say About GEOG325?

“Creative, interesting, interactive.”

“An exciting and innovatingly different learning experience.”

“The classes outside made a pleasant change from being inside the classroom all the time. The entire course got me out of my comfort zone a little and I liked it…”

“The activities within the class really helped put our concepts we learnt into practice and furthered our learning, along with class discussion we were able to grasp the subject a lot better.”

“Absolutely loved group activities got the whole class engaged. Finally able to discuss ideas with classmates which really helps develop ideas.”

“The activities in class were fun and stimulating.”

“The assignments were good because they got us to use skills that we usually ignore at university.”

“Having interesting assignments that required a lot of personal thinking – not just regurgitation of material that is taught.”

“The assessments were helpful to my learning as they were completely different from normal university assessments and so it was more challenging and required more thought, helping me to better understand the course material as I had to apply the concepts learnt in class.”

“I really do recommend this class to people doing physical geography as well.”

“I liked that I was able to use skills that I learnt in this class in my non-academic life.”

Participatory learning - GEOG325 Season II