Categories
Annual Seminar GEReCo

Teaching and Learning about the Anthropocene

Watch the recording of the GEReCo / UK IGU-CGE open forum that was held online on 21st June 2022.

This GEReCo open forum engaged with the concept of the Anthropocene and considered ways in which it might be applied in school geography. Noel Castree summarised the scientific origins and evolution of the concept (Revkin, 2016), and then identify key themes and implications for geographers. The presentation raised questions about what is taught in school geography and how.

Cyrus Nayeri and Hina Robinson then responded by considering how engagement with environmental issues can emerge in the school classroom and some practical steps teachers can take, including ways to use art and student voice. The event finished with a Q&A with the three panellists.

Noel Castree is Professor of Society & Environment at the University of Technology Sydney (Australia) and Professor of Geography at Manchester University.

Cyrus Nayeri is Head of Geography at Dulwich College and Course Director (acting) for the Geography PGCE course at King’s College London.

Hina Robinson is a geography teacher and Diversity lead at Southend High School for Girls. She is also a member of the Geographical Association governing body and joint chair of its diversity and inclusion working group.

GEReCo Summer Webinar 2022

References

Revkin, A. (2016) ‘An Anthropocene journey’, Anthropocene Magazine, Issue 1.

Nayeri, C. (2021) Teaching geography in the Anthropocene, Teaching Geography, 46(2), 50-52.

Categories
GEReCo

Mentoring and the ‘production of space’: Research, practice and geographical futures

Lauren Hammond, Grace Healy, Steve Puttick and Nicola Walshe

Mentoring matters in, and for, geography education. Mentoring is critically important for inducting teachers of geography into teaching as a profession, and more broadly into the schools and communities that they serve. Mentoring is also invaluable for supporting the progression and development of experienced teachers, researchers and teacher educators throughout their careers. In our forthcoming (February 2022) edited collection Mentoring Geography Teachers in the Secondary School a wide range of geography educators – working in a variety of different settings – come together to explore mentoring (Healy et al., 2022). In this blog we have distilled their insights to offer a summary of arguments developed further in the book. We begin by critically examining the relationship between mentoring and the ‘production of space’, before exploring the relationships between geography and sustainability to consider the potential of mentoring for producing more just and inclusive futures in, and through, geography education.

Since we submitted this book for publication, the socio-political landscape of teacher education in England – the national policy context in which we all work – continues to be a space of contestation and debate. In Taylor and Healy’s (2021, n.p.) words, ‘teacher education has been shaped by neo-liberal political agendas that dispute the role of the university within the knowledge base for teaching, while supporting the advancement of the private sector within a teacher education ‘market’’. The recent Market Review of ITT (DfE, 2021) has resulted in significant concerns being raised about the role of the state in (decision-making about) Initial Teacher Education (ITE), including  – but not limited to – the role of disciplines (e.g., geography or history) in ITE (Hardman, 2021). For example, in their response to the Market Review consultation, the Geographical Association (2021) express that they are:

concerned by the level of prescription and limits to academic agency within the report’s recommendations, which risk undermining a critically-engaged professional ITE environment that allows for subject/phase-specific development of geography teachers. Longer-term, this would have significant implications for the status and professionalism of geography teaching.

Concerns raised by the Geographical Association and others across the sector (see for example, CCT, 2021; NASBTT, 2021; UCET, 2021) build upon pre-existing concerns about ITE policy. Particularly that the ITT Core Content Framework (CCF) (DfE, 2019) is framed by selective reading of a narrow research base which has the potential to remove prospective teachers of geography from the ‘reservoirs’ (Bernstein, 2000) of knowledge and expertise that exist in, and are supported by, disciplines in universities. Put another way, they contribute to what Taylor and Healy (2021, n.p.) term a space of ‘deeply contested policy-making’, with some universities considering the ethical and professional implications of continuing to support teacher education in this landscape (see for example, responses from UCL, 2021; University of Oxford, 2021). 

Stepping back from the particular challenges facing ITE in England, Morgan (2022) situates ITE amid fundamental intersecting crises facing the Earth as our shared home. These crises include, but are not limited to, the CV-19 pandemic, anthropogenically induced ecological and climate crises, and systemic and everyday injustices faced by people in different spaces because of their intersectional identities. Here, active consideration of the affective and embodied nature of community, and the disciplines of geography and education (and the relationships between them) is of critical importance.

Community in geography education is multifaceted, and we use it to foreground:  the communities we work within and serve (hooks, 2003); the colleagues we work with in schools, universities, or other educational spaces; and the disciplinary communities we draw upon and contribute to (Kinder, 2022). These communities enable us – in different ways and at different times – to: seek support; to engage in critical discussion, practitioner inquiry and research; to challenge one-another’s thinking and (potentially) to develop shared philosophies and practices; and to advocate for change where needed. Mentoring in geography education has a vital role in introducing beginning teachers to these communities, nurturing professional development, and in collectively addressing global, and local, challenges in, and through, geography education.

We draw upon Lefebvre’s (1991) work on the ‘production of space’ to frame our examination of mentoring. This is because ‘social space is a social product’ (p.26), and through mentoring and teaching mentors actively (re)produce the kinds of futures they want for their students, their mentees and for the world. Applied to geography education, the production of space offers a valuable and ambitious view of mentors’ agency: 

Freedom and liberatory politics cannot be pursued, we may conclude, without active human agents individually or collectively producing new spaces and spatio-temporalities, making and remaking places materially as well as in a different image, and producing a new second nature and thereby revolutionising their socio-ecological and environmental relations.

(Harvey 2009, p.259)

 

Mentors can, and do, shape presents and futures as agents in communities and the world. Through actively engaging with different ideas and theories about geography and education, teachers of geography become more informed in their practice and thinking about the presents and futures they want to shape in, and through, education. These are ambitious aims, and involve active consideration of the relationships between mentoring and geographical futures.

Framing his chapter around the question ‘what sort of mentoring for what sort of geography education?’ Morgan argues that ‘there is an urgent need for mentors to engage colleagues in sustained conversations about the theory and practice of geography education’ (Morgan, 2022, p.46). This profound question recognises the significance of mentoring to teachers’ professional growth and well-being, and also offers a typology of ways in which mentoring might be conceptualised and understood. This typology (Table one) offers mentors a way to critically consider the nature of their mentoring and the possible impacts on the mentee, and more widely on geography education and the children and young people they teach. 

Type of mentor/ingWhat is this mentor/ing like?
Evidence-based learningFocussed on effective geography teaching, and demonstrable results. Risks ignoring profound and underpinning questions about the purpose of (geographical) education.
Reflective knowledgeThe teacher is central – with the beginning teacher encouraged to critically reflect upon their teaching, and to make changes based on their reflections. Risks knowledge and debate  about geography education being sidelined. 
Teachers as activistsDraws on radical and progressive ideals about education, and positions the school as a site of social change, with the teacher positioned as a transformative intellectual.
The knowledge-focussed mentorFocussed on the debates about the place of, and politics around, the ‘place’ of knowledge in schooling.
The networked teacher-mentorIdentities are shaped, and teaching informed, through social networks and negotiations.
Table one: Adapted version of Morgan’s (2022) typology of mentoring for geography teachers

As we argue when concluding the book, Morgan’s question and typology is beneficial to supporting mentors in truly engaging with the question ‘what kinds of futures do you hope your mentoring will produce?’ (Hammond et al., 2022). We argue that this question allows mentors to take a metaphorical step-back from their practice, and to consider how the ideas of justice, agency and voice can be used by mentors to support and inform their practice. Here, we propose that by actively considering justice in, and for, geography education, mentors and beginning teachers can be supported in (re)producing more just educational spaces and systems. For example, in challenging injustices, othering and exclusionary practices to enable and empower teachers of geography both in their everyday work and also their development as professionals. This includes actively considering how people and places are represented in curricula and teaching, and empowering students through pedagogy. It also involves actively considering barriers teachers of geography might face – including those related to their identities when engaging with ‘communities of practice’ (Lave and Wegner, 1991), and ultimately in achieving their career aspirations.

Another important future envisioned by chapter authors in the book concerns sustainability, for ‘one is born into history, one isn’t born into a void’ (Brand, 2001, p.82 quoted in Yusoff, 2018, p.27). The revision of the geography National Curriculum presented in the 2014 Programme of Study for Key Stage 3 (DfE, 2014) removed sustainable development and climate change from the Geography National Curriculum in England. Whilst not all schools are legally obliged to follow the national curriculum, and teachers conceptualised as ‘curriculum makers’ (Lambert and Morgan, 2010) exert their agency as they navigate decisions about what to teach – the national curriculum is important. For example, affecting; the content of published teaching resources and the focus of accountability regimes; how geography is taught; assessment foci and processes; and also potentially areas of focus during ITE.

Current curriculum policy is one aspect of the time-space in which we exist. There is certainly no curriculum void! For us, a key role of mentoring is empowering beginning teachers to critically engage with what to teach and their representation of the world and the people who call it home (Ahmed et al., 2022). In the present time-space, this includes active consideration of how they teach children about the intersecting crises facing the Earth, and how we might empower children as active agents in their own lives, communities and the world. As Healy and Walshe (2022) argue, mentors can become more intentional as they navigate the professional landscape that shapes their mentoring, becoming policy actors (rather than policy subjects). 

Whilst Healy and Walshe (2022) focus on critical engagement with educational policy that conceptualises and affects the practice of mentoring, in this blog we now shine a light on the intentionality of critical engagement with a more complex and wide-reaching set of policy, including geography curriculum discourse and policies concerning the future of the Earth. Combined with active scholarship, this is fundamental to ensuring beginning geography teachers are better placed to question the decisions that others have made when they engage with curriculum policies, debates and textbooks (Healy, 2022). For example, by drawing on the work of Haraway (2016) beginning teachers can support students in (re)examining the relationships between people and the Earth. As Haraway contends, ‘human beings are with and of the earth, and the other biotic and abiotic powers of the earth are the main story’, with how human beings live and die matters, not just to other people, but ‘also to the many critters across taxa which and whom we have subjected to exterminations, extinctions, genocides, and prospects of futurelessness’ (p.59). Drawing on Haraway’s work can support children in thinking about their connections to the Earth, and the decisions they make in their lives and futures.

In conclusion…

In this blog, we have examined how mentoring in geography can (re)produce spaces, practices and systems to help co-create more just communities and tomorrows for mentees. Through the example of sustainability, we have considered how through scholarship and moves to act as ‘policy actors’ mentors can also support beginning teachers in navigating the complexities of teaching geography in ways that critically engage with policy at a range of scales. We are conscious that these are highly ambitious aims, and we hope that the wide ranging, questioning and provocative contributions in Mentoring Geography Teachers in the Secondary School makes connections between the practical challenges facing mentors and the reservoirs of vibrant geographical thought that might inspire more expansive and hopeful futures. We have argued these futures ought to foreground concern with sustainability in ways that critically engage with intersectional injustices and contribute to geography’s essential contribution to education in the 21st century.   

Mentoring Geography Teachers in the Secondary School will be published on 28th February 2022 and you can read more about the book here: https://www.routledge.com/Mentoring-Geography-Teachers-in-the-Secondary-School-A-Practical-Guide/Healy-Hammond-Puttick-Walshe/p/book/9780367743222

References

Ahmed, F. Hammond, L. Nichols, S-A. Puttick, S. and Searle, A. (2022) Planning in geography education: A conversation between university-based tutors and school-based mentors in Initial Teacher Education. G. Healy, L. Hammond, S. Puttick and N. Walshe (eds), Mentoring Geography Teachers in the Secondary School. Abingdon: Routledge, pp.156-172.

Bernstein, B. (2000) Pedagogy, Symbolic Control and Identity: Theory, Research, Critique. London: Rowman & Littlefield.

CCT. (2021) Chartered College of Teaching Comments on ITT Market Review  https://chartered.college/2021/07/05/chartered-college-of-teaching-comments-on-itt-market-review/

Department for Education [DfE]. (2014) Geography programmes of study: Key stage 3 national curriculum. London: DfE. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/239087/SECONDARY_national_curriculum_-_Geography.pdf Accessed 18.10.21.

Department for Education [DfE]. (2019) ITT Core Content Framework. London: DfE. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/919166/ITT_core_content_framework_.pdf. Accessed 30.12.2021.

Department for Education [DfE]. (2021) Policy Paper: Initial Teacher Training Market Review: Overview. London: DfE.https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/initial-teacher-training-itt-market-review/initial-teacher-training-itt-market-review-overview. Accessed 08.07.2021.

Geographical Association (GA). (2021) Consultation Response by the Geographical Association: Government consultation on Initial teacher training (ITT) market review recommendations: response from the Geographical Association (August 2021) https://www.geography.org.uk/write/MediaUploads/Advocacy%20Files/DfE_ITT_market_review_consultation_-_GA_response_(Aug2021)FINAL.pdf Accessed 26.09.2021.

Hammond, L. Puttick, S. Walshe, N. and Healy, G. (2022) Mentoring matters: mentoring for a more just tomorrow in geography education. G. Healy, L. Hammond, S. Puttick and N. Walshe (eds), Mentoring Geography Teachers in the Secondary School. Abingdon: Routledge, pp.243-251.

Haraway, D. (2016) Staying with the trouble: Anthroposcene, Capitoloscene, Chuthulucene. J. Moore. Eds. Anthroposcene or Capitoloscene? Nature, history, and the crisis of capitalism. Oakland: PM Press.

Hardman, M. (2021) What does it mean to teach a subject? Not what the ITT Market Review suggests. https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/2021/09/09/what-does-it-mean-to-teach-a-subject-not-what-the-itt-market-review-suggests/ Accessed 30.12.2021.

Harvey. D. (2009) Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom New York: Columbia University Press.

Healy, G. Hammond, L., Puttick, S., and Walshe, N. (eds) (2022) Mentoring Geography Teachers in the Secondary School. Abingdon: Routledge. 

Healy, G. (2022) Geography and geography education scholarship as a mechanism for developing and sustaining mentors’ and beginning teachers’ subject knowledge and curriculum thinkingG. Healy, L. Hammond, S. Puttick and N. Walshe (eds), Mentoring Geography Teachers in the Secondary School. Abingdon: Routledge, pp.187-207.

Healy, G. and Walshe, N. (2022) Navigating the policy landscape: Conceptualising subject specialist mentoring within and beyond mentoring. G. Healy, L. Hammond, S. Puttick and N. Walshe (eds), Mentoring Geography Teachers in the Secondary School. Abingdon: Routledge, pp.187-207.

hooks, b. (2003) Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. Abingdon: Routledge.

Kinder, A. (2022) Mentoring within the geography subject community. In G. Healy, L. Hammond, S. Puttick and N. Walshe (eds), Mentoring Geography Teachers in the Secondary School. Abingdon: Routledge, pp.102-118.

Lambert, D. and Morgan, J. (2010) Teaching geography 11-18: A conceptual approach. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lefebvre, H. (1991) The production of space (Translated by D. Nicholson-Smith). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Morgan, J. (2022) What sort of mentoring for what sort of geography education?  In G. Healy, L. Hammond, S. Puttick and N. Walshe (eds), Mentoring Geography Teachers in the Secondary School. Abingdon: Routledge, pp.42-56.

NASBTT. (2021) ITT Market Review Final Report and Consultation: NASBTT statement. https://www.nasbtt.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/ITT-market-review-final-report-and-consultation-July-2021-002.pdf Accessed 30.12.2021.

Taylor, B. and Healy, G. (2021) London Review of Education Call for Papers: Rising to the challenge of teacher education to prepare teachers for today’s world.  https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1684/4803/files/CFP_LRE_spring_2023.pdf?v=1634745655

UCET. (2021) DfE consultation on the review of the ITE Market UCET response. https://www.ucet.ac.uk/downloads/13250-UCET-Market-Review-Response-%28July-2021%29.pdf Accessed 30.12.2021.

UCL, (2021) IOE responds to the ITT Market Review consultation. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/news/2021/aug/ioe-responds-itt-market-review-consultation. Accessed 22.09.2021.

University of Oxford. (2021) Initial Teacher Training Market Review response. http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/initial-teacher-training-market-review-response/. Accessed 22.09.2021.

Yusoff, K. (2018) A billion Black Anthropocenes or none. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Categories
GEReCo

GEReCo and research priorities

By David Lambert

On publishing its ‘research reviews’, including the one on geography, Ofsted stated that the intention was to “set out the research that has informed our thinking on subject quality”. One of Ofsted’s so-called ‘filters’ in reviewing research was the recognition that “curriculum is different from pedagogy”. In other words, the official watchdog on standards recognises that a key element in judging quality in geography is the curriculum per se, defined as “what teachers teach and when, and what pupils learn”[1]. We go on to read that in its future subject reports, inspectors will judge “the extent to which teaching supports the goals of the subject curriculum.”

Since its inception GEReCo has burned the flame for curriculum focussed scholarship and must continue to do so.

However, it needs to do so with a fierce independence, for what Ofsted means or implies by curriculum may not be entirely consistent with what some of us at least feel is at stake. John Morgan recently outlined this disjuncture in his review of the Ofsted document:[2] because “… the curriculum is seen as an ‘object’ rather than as a ‘problem’, all that is left is to explain how best to organize it, plan for progression, and teach it – hence the overwhelming focus of the Review [is] on pedagogy and assessment.” But the curriculum problem remains, looming like the proverbial elephant in the room: how do teachers justify geography in the school curriculum and what should we teach?

Perhaps we need look no further than the following words to see the significance of John’s point. Ofsted states that “Progress in curricular terms means knowing more and remembering more, so a curriculum needs to carefully plan for that progress by considering the building blocks and sequence in each subject.”

This to me conjures images of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. There are doubtless other metaphors. But merely teaching geography efficiently and effectively to ‘ensure progression’ (which utterly defies precise, technocratic definition anyhow – at least beyond ‘remembering more’) is a woefully inadequate expression of an educational response to contemporary needs and challenges. For instance, how does teaching geography contribute to the education of children and young people in a world where

  • colonial and imperial violence, and the enduring injustices that have followed, are now more widely understood and acknowledged;
  • the climate emergency is causing death, economic mayhem and displacing tens of millions of people across the globe;
  • biodiversity loss, again on a global scale, is already looking cataclysmic;
  • human-nature relations are now so mixed up (partly a result of almost 8 billion people on the planet) that the Covid-19 pandemic is best not thought of as a ‘one-off’?

These are existential threats, not abstract ‘world problems’. They are all present in the here and now. That is, they are experiential. But all are also geographical, or at least have geographical dimensions. Geographers are amongst those contributing new knowledge, perspectives and insights across all of these areas. The school geography curriculum has the enormous challenge of responding to pupils’ lived experiences while at the same time enabling them better to understand these in broader contexts. This is where ‘school subject’ meets ‘discipline’. It is not so much about rewriting the curriculum with better, new or more up to date selections to teach in schools, but more to do with the relationship we have with knowledge and the infrastructure that exist to support teachers in the development of this relationship – and building that relationship to ‘what we know and how we know it’ with pupils too. This is not easy and is nothing less than grappling with the challenges and ambition of Future Three curriculum making[3] – incidentally, the lynchpin of GeoCapabilities[4].

So GEReCo is definitely right in promoting and developing deeper and broader links with the wider discipline (along with the RGS-IBG and GA). But the particular strength of GEReCo must be to examine the school curriculum implications – because of course, as Zongyi Deng[5] points out in his most recent paper, what is taught in school, even under the banner of that frequently misappropriated term ‘powerful knowledge’, is not just influenced by developments in the discipline. He makes a call for continued conceptual research on knowledge, how content selections are made and the role of teachers in curriculum making – in a manner that is not ‘above’ politics but neither is unaware of social, cultural, environmental and political contexts in which we live. It is for example noteworthy the surge of interest in issues of race and racism in society that has followed the resurgence of Black Lives Matter, and a growing number of individuals and groups are now thinking hard about how school geography must respond. It also is a matter of record the step change in popular understanding of the climate emergency and its differential effects around the world, including within the British Isles. Furthermore, Brexit has resulted in a political dynamic that requires recalibration of the UK’s relationship with Europe and the rest of the world – which clearly risks the very existence of the UK in its current form.  These are all epochal issues, and it is interesting how reluctant educationist in general seem to be in confronting the question of what appropriate educational responses should be. Guy Claxton’s riveting new read on the ‘future of teaching’[6], for example, barely mentions such issues and neither does Debra Kidd’s ‘curriculum of hope’[7] whilst acknowledging we live in ‘trying times’.

Deng calls for empirical work on the curriculum and in geography this could – should maybe – address those matters alluded to in the previous paragraph. Easier said than done perhaps. But now is surely the time. It might therefore be appropriate for readers to use the comment box to make their own suggestions regarding this call. Comments might then take the form the basis of a further blog post – also taking into account gaps and silences noted in the Ofsted review of research in geography.[8]


[1] All these quoted words are from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/principles-behind-ofsteds-research-reviews-and-subject-reports/principles-behind-ofsteds-research-reviews-and-subject-reports

[2] https://impolitegeography.wordpress.com/2021/06/21/one-review-to-rule-them-all-ofsteds-review-of-research-in-geography/

[3] Morgan, J., Hoadley, U. and Horden, J. (2019) On the politics and ambition of the ‘turn’: unpacking the relations between Future 1 and Future 3. Curriculum Journal, 30 (2) DOI:10.1080/09585176.2019.1575254

[4] https://www.geocapabilities.org/

[5] Deng, Z. (2021) Powerful knowledge, transformations and Didaktik/curriculum thinking, British Educational Research Journal  DOI: 10.1002/berj.3748

[6] Claxton, G. (2021) The Future of Teaching – and the myths that hold it back. Abingdon: Routledge.

[7] Kidd, D. (2020) A curriculum of Hope. Independent Thinking Press.

[8] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ofsted-publishes-research-review-on-geography

Categories
Annual Seminar GEReCo

Progress in Geography?

Watch the recording of the GEReCo / UK IGU-CGE annual seminar that was held online on 30th June 2021 .

About this event

In dialogue with members of the editorial boards from leading journals, including Progress in Physical Geography and Progress in Human Geography, and Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, this seminar critically explored ideas about progress in geography.

Karen Anderson, Associate Professor in Remote Sensing, University of Exeter; Associate Editor, Progress in Physical Geography

Tariq Jazeel, Professor of Human Geography, University College London; Editor, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Nina Laurie, Professor of Human Geography, University of St Andrews; Editor, Progress in Human Geography

Categories
GEReCo

GEReCo: beginnings and future directions

Clare Brooks established Geography Education Research Collective (GEReCo) with Graham Butt in 2007, and then chaired GEReCo from 2019 until 2021, leading GEReCo to merge with the UK IGU-CGE (IGU-CGE is the Commission on Geographical Education of the International Geographical Union). Steve Puttick took on the chair of GEReCo in 2021. This blog is a conversation between Clare and Steve, looking back at the beginnings of GEReCo and some of the contributions it has made, then its merger with UK IGU-CGE, and reflections on possible future directions for the collective.

SP: You’ve been part of GEReCo since the very beginning (in 2007) – How would you describe the original impetus that drove you all to set it up?

CB: I vividly remember attending a presentation that Graham did at an IGU-CGE conference in Brisbane (it must have been 2005? 2006?), where he drew upon a range of criticisms of education research generally, and posed some important questions about the quality of education research in geography[1]. I was really taken with his observations, and after his presentation we discussed the “state” of geography education research. About six months after, I was hosting the Geography Teacher Educators conference in London, and suggested to Graham that as many colleagues would be heading to London anyway, why not set up a meeting prior to the Conference to discuss taking a strategic lead on geography education research? That’s what we did. Everyone we invited came, and that was the birth of GEReCo.

I think at the time we had all sorts of ideas: joint research bids, publications, etc; Graham was particularly successful with organising us to write some edited books, and to use these contributions as a basis for some seminar contributions at American Association of Geographers (AAG) annual meeting which really put us onto the map in the international scene.

SP: That’s really interesting context – and to what extent do you think it has achieved those aims?

CB: I think that GEReCo has been really successful at raising the profile of geography education research, particularly internationally. I think the ambition to be more strategic in developing a research agenda was much more challenging. We found ourselves in the difficult position of wanting to support individual research projects and ideas, without being too prescriptive as to what research should be done and what shouldn’t. 

In retrospect, I think a major benefit was the opportunity and space for colleagues to talk about the field and what research was taking place across geography education. This certainly helped us to link up and offer support to many other colleagues. In the early days, we started a journal called GeogEd which published papers-in-progress along with their reviews and I think that was a nice idea to support early career researchers to understand the process of writing a paper and getting it published.

SP: Those ideas about linking up and supporting seem really important to these ideas about what GEReCo is, and in Graham Butt’s recent book – Geography Education Research in the UK: Retrospect and Prospect – he mentions the (at that time) probable merger with IGU-CGE. What kinds of things have you been involved with through IGU-CGE? And how do you see this new merged collective adding to what both were already doing?

CB: So the International Geographical Union (IGU), and particularly the Commission for Geography Education (CGE) have a long standing influence on the field and a strong connection with the Institute of Education (IOE). When I first joined the IOE as an academic, I remember Ashley Kent[2] suggesting I attend their conferences both in London and abroad. I started to attend the British Sub-Committee regularly, and eventually took on the role of Honorary Secretary of the IGU-CGE Executive Group, and then chair of both the (renamed) UK Committee and the IGU CGE Executive itself. During that involvement I became aware of a number of things: the research we were discussing in the UK community covered a range of themes and issues which were also of considerable international interest, and that there was so much valuable work going on in the international community, and I think the Brits can sometimes be a bit inward looking. 

I have benefited so much from the international conferences I attended with the IGU, and the wonderful friends and colleagues I made from that group. In the UK Committee we wanted to work in two ways: to ensure that UK work in geography education was represented in international discussions, and also to ensure that the UK community were aware of what was going on elsewhere. I’m really pleased that the new GEReCo has agreed to continue with some of the ways that the UK IGU-CGE Committee sought to do that – for example, through the annual research seminar, and the London conference. I am also really delighted at the way the IGU-CGE are developing ways of reaching out to wider groups: through their newsletter, new website and podcasts, and the Book Series we have with Springer (which I edit with Di Wilmot).

I think the two organisations have very similar values and interests – and that was the primary motivation for bringing them together. Whilst GEReCo were strongly research-focussed, and the IGU is strong internationally-focussed, neither of those things precludes the other – and in fact they are strengthened by coming together. As a member of GEReCo I wanted us to look out as much as we looked in, and as Chair of the IGU-CGE I wanted us to develop and promote geography education research in a strategic way. So for me, the merger was a no-brainer.

I really hope it will mean that many others will have access to the international conferences and professional networks that I have enjoyed, the opportunities to stop and think strategically about research in our field and where it is heading and what it needs, and that we can widen the scope of who gets involved in geography education research and can offer the support they need to produce some really high-quality transformative findings.

SP: These sound like brilliant things! What kinds of contributions do you particularly hope to see GEReCo making to the field of geography education research in the future?

CB: I was going to ask you the same thing!

I think there is a huge amount of potential with the new GEReCo. I am particularly excited at how the group has opened up to geographers interested in education, and researchers who are located in schools. The commitment and interest in geography education is widespread and I am so pleased the GEReCo is aiming to include that wide definition.

But I also feel like one of the elders (hasbeens!) now, and I am more excited about your vision Steve: what do you see GEReCo contributing in the future?

SP: I’ve been enjoying asking you the questions! It’s really interesting to think back over the period of time you’ve described – thank you so much for sharing these insights. There have been many changes over that time, and it’s really encouraging to look back at the contribution that GEReCo has made to geography education research, including some of the really significant publications that have come out through GEReCo and the links and support that have helped to sustain and grow the field. 

I’m really excited about the opportunity to contribute to GEReCo / UK IGU-CGE in a way that continues to deepen the links between colleagues working across geography education research, including teacher educators based in a wide range of settings and academic geographers. I think we’ve got a brilliant annual seminar coming up this summer that will bring together ‘physical’ and ‘human’ geographers to explore the idea of progress (further details to be announced soon – watch this space!), which I hope will also lead onto some really interesting collaborations.

I think your comments earlier about the ‘inward looking’ tendencies of Brits in geography education touches on a really important point which has been particularly exposed by recent work in the discipline asking why is my geography curriculum so white? There is obviously a lot of work to do, but there are some great collaborations going on, some hard questions being asked, and some hints of substantive institutional changes, and I hope GEReCo can play a part in expanding the representation, knowledges and voices that make up geography education. I would love to see GEReCo contributing to an increasingly vibrant and critically-engaged geography education research landscape that supports geography education researchers, nurtures great international collaborations, and facilitates lively and generative interactions across the geographies of education, the wider discipline, and the school subject.

CB: That sounds great Steve! Sign me up!


[1] Butt’s guest editorial in IRGEE with a focus on Perspectives on research in geography education, published in 2010, touches on some of these issues https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10382046.2010.482179

[2] Ashley Kent was Professor of Geography Education at the Institute of Education. For an example of Ashley’s work including a focus on the development of geography education at the IoE, see: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2167/irg197.0