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GEReCo

Geography teacher educators’ identity, roles and professional learning in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world

Dr Emma Rawlings Smith, Department of Education, University of Oxford and Dr Elizabeth Rushton, Institute of Education, University College London

In this blog we discuss a recently published paper in International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education titled ‘Geography teacher educators’ identity, roles and professional learning in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world’, in which we explore the role, identity and professional learning of geography teacher educators, through a subject lens.

Initial teacher education (ITE) systems worldwide have been the subject of significant government review and reform driven by the development of neoliberal discourses, policies and practices across the sector. For teacher educators, this ‘policy turn’ (Cochran-Smith, 2016) has resulted in increased centralisation, the narrowing of ITE curricular and a complex, fragmented and challenging context in which to work. Yet, teacher educators – those who teach teachers through initial or continuing teacher education programmes – are not always recognised for the vital role they play in the sector and the significant impact they have on the quality of teachers entering the profession. 

Critics have argued that current policy reform is de-professionalising and allows the continued reproduction of social inequalities (Dwyer, Willis, & Call, 2020). At the same time, sustainability continues to be absent in teacher education policy in England (Dunlop & Rushton, 2022). We find these aspects troubling when considering the key role of education in creating a socially just and sustainable world (UN, 2021). Teacher educators worldwide continue to work in contexts which are shaped and informed by persistent policy reform and global environmental crises which we argue, combine to create a professional life that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). Although, the contribution and identities of teachers, especially geography teachers, to the teaching of climate change and sustainability in formal education has been widely recognised (Rushton, 2021), the important context of teacher education, and geography teacher education, has received far less research attention. Our research study addresses this gap and explores the professional role, identity and professional learning of Geography Teacher Educators (GTEs) based in England. 

A full account of our research study is available in Rawlings Smith and Rushton (2022). Here, we outline the key findings. Drawing on data from an online questionnaire, a practitioner workshop and semi-structured interviews, our findings highlight the diverse nature of a GTE’s role with three broad aspects including a focus on geography; the development of pre-service teachers’ pedagogy; and provision of pastoral support. During interview, participants placed emphasis on the subject specialist element of their work – this was a thread running through their professional life – and they wanted to support pre-service teachers to build their own relationship with geography during ITE. They also emphasised the importance of pastoral care, compassion and kindness as teacher education is a challenging and intense period of professional transition and development for pre-service teachers. In terms of knowledge, GTEs articulated the importance of having secure and substantive geographical knowledge; knowledge of teaching school geography; and engagement with geography education. 

Drawing on diverse experiences and expertise, GTEs discussed the broader aims of education and how their role allowed them to promote social and environmental justice. Maintaining subject knowledge was seen as important but knowing where to source this was not always obvious. The forms of professional development GTEs recognised as key to their professional growth included engaging with research; professional learning within and beyond their institution; and being a member of the wider GTE community. With an appreciation of the serendipitous nature of professional learning activities, participants recognised the importance of the GTE community as a source and conduit for ongoing professional development.

Ahead of concluding this blog, we would like to invite readers to consider the following two questions:

  1. How can a geographical lens support new understandings of teacher education in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world? 
  2. Is there the will from teacher educators and policy makers to make social justice and sustainability more visible in teacher education policy in England?

In the time taken to complete and publish this research study, the context of ITE in England has significantly changed. Following policy reform, a Market Review and ITE reaccreditation process has seen long-established and highly regarded providers of ITE lose their accreditation for 2024, meaning parts of the country will have teacher supply cold spots (DfE, 2021; Adams, 2022). This VUCA context has affected everyone across the sector and has impacted the professional roles and identities of teacher educators, felt more acutely by those whose jobs may no longer exist in 2024. This reduction in provision seems illogical when the government want schools to be increasingly research-informed (Rawlings Smith, 2022) and counterproductive particularly amid a teacher recruitment crisis, for example postgraduate teacher recruitment was 29% below target in 2022/23 (DfE, 2022). 

Teacher education is a multi-faceted partnership involving schools, universities, policy makers, subject associations, professional bodies, unions and local communities to name but a few. We argue that teacher educators, and especially geography teacher educators, have a responsibility to work together to question and bravely challenge policy making which limits our capacity to leverage our professional roles to enable a socially and environmentally just future for all. There are many ways in which such questioning and challenge can occur, and we encourage that challenge to be constructive and collective. For example, active membership of professional bodies and subject associations and sharing perspectives and inviting future conversation and collaboration through blogs which are widely accessible are two possible ways. The VUCA context of teacher education in England can make engaging with policy change all the more challenging however, teacher educator communities of practice provide a vital space for this to continue. 

References

Adams, R. (2022). Teacher shortage could worsen after DfE rejects dozens of training courses, The Guardianhttps://www.theguardian.com/education/2022/dec/09/teacher-shortage-worsen-dfe-rejects-dozens-established-trainers Accessed 10 December 2022.

Cochran-Smith, C. (2016). Teaching and teacher education: Absence and presence in AERA presidential addresses. Educational Researcher, 45(2), 92–99.

Department for Education (DfE). (2021). Initial teacher training (ITT): Accreditation. London: HM Government. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/initial-teacher-training-itt-accredita-tion#accreditation-process Accessed 12 December 2022.

Department of Education. (DfE) (2022). Postgraduate initial teacher training targets. London: HM Government. https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/postgraduate-initial-teacher-training-targets/2022-23 Accessed 12 December 2022.

Dunlop, L., & Rushton, E. A. C. (2022). Putting climate change at the heart of education: Is England’s strategy a placebo for policy? British Educational Research Journalhttps://doi.org/10.1002/berj.3816

Dwyer, R., Willis, A., & Call, K. (2020). Teacher educators speaking up: Illuminating stories stifled by the iron-grip regulation of initial teacher education. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 48(5), 572–585.

Rawlings Smith, E. (2022). Breaking the theory-practice relationship: why decoupling universities from ITE would be illogical, CollectivED working papers, Leeds Beckett University. https://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/research/collectived/working-paper-series/

Rawlings Smith, E., & Rushton, E.A.C. (2022). Geography teacher educators’ identity, roles and professional learning in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education.https://doi.org/10.1080/10382046.2022.2153988

Rushton, E. A. C. (2021). Building Teacher Identity in Environmental and Sustainability Education: The Perspectives of Preservice Secondary School Geography Teachers. Sustainability, 13(9), 5321.

United Nations (UN) (2021). Climate Change Conference: Co-chairs conclusions of education and environment ministers’ summit at COP26https://ukcop26.org/co-chair s-conclusions-of-education-and-environment-ministers-summit-at-cop26/Accessed 12 December 2022.

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GEReCo

What is needed for a hopeful school geography?

Dr David Mitchell (UCL / IoE)

In this blog post I first reflect on the extraordinary summer of 2022 and coming out of the pandemic, with a geographical perspective. Then, I raise some questions around geography education’s role in the challenge of the Anthropocene, drawing on some projects I am involved in. I argue here that exploring the relationship of knowledge and values, including by geographers collaborating with other subject specialists, can help develop a curriculum for hopeful futures, without diminishing the distinctive power of geography. 

Early one morning at the height of the heatwave this summer, I woke to find a fox in my bedroom. Emboldened by the scarcity of food and water in parched suburban England, it had come in through an open door and chased my cat up the stairs. It gave me quite a shock! It struck me that this was another signal of climate change. If we make a few connections, it is hard to ignore. Here was climate change announcing itself, coming up to bite me (almost literally). The small local signs keep coming – a poisonous spider on my garden fence (the false widow – an invasive species), trees dropping their leaves in August, England at over 40 degrees. Summer 2022’s weather extremes are no joke for those struggling to live with forest fires in southern Europe, floods in Pakistan and drought in the Horn of Africa. Recent months seem like a wake-up call to the speed and seriousness of climate change. 

Most people can probably think of an example of how ‘nature’ has recently changed to impinge on their lives, but they may not make the connection to climate change and the Anthropocene. Geography education helps here, through concepts of interconnection and environment. Covid 19 is another case in point. The virus mutated, jumping to people partly because development pushing into the fringes of wild, forest areas has put pressure on these ecosystems, encouraging viruses to move beyond their usual zoological pools and into humans.

An interesting geographical connection between climate crisis and Covid 19, which I do not think is often made, is about taking action. The climate crisis demands swift, collaborative action to decarbonise the global economy. A few encouraging examples can be found – for instance, this summer, Germany’s €9 ticket scheme which gave a month’s unlimited public transport across cities, significantly reducing car use, and the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) committing the USA to serious investment in renewable energy infrastructure. But overall, change is slow and limited, even as tipping points are approaching. It can seem that, in democracies, it is just too much to expect people to stand for the disruption needed, for example in the form of taxation to fund a dramatic overhaul of energy, transport and housing infrastructure, perhaps even measures to limit individual freedoms to consume as we choose. And yet when a more immediate fear of a killer disease (covid 19) is brought into the mix, people in those same democracies willingly obey orders to stay at home for months at a time, home-schooling their children, not visiting elderly relatives. 

Covid 19 has shown that, in democracies as well as autocracies, governments can act fast, show leadership in the face of environmental crisis, and collaborate across the world. Why is such leadership not forthcoming with the climate crisis? Perhaps it is the super-complexity of climate change, a wicked problem and a ‘hyper-object’ – vast, well known, and ever-present, yet defying perception (see Morton, 2014). Like the fable of the frog in the cauldron (it dies because it doesn’t notice the water gradually heating) the problem is that creeping change is harder to grasp than a sudden event. 

Geographical concepts help us to make connections between events and places, to find patterns and make sense of our lives on the earth. In this way, geographical education is about developing knowledge and understanding of the present. Geography’s contribution to education is also about the future, which depends on how knowledge and understanding is used – the choices made. This is not just about conceptual knowledge, but (as I have alluded to in my introduction) it includes viewpoints, attitudes, and values, often developed by debate. The work for geography educators and teachers is daunting. Eco-anxiety is on the rise, teacher recruitment and retention are in crisis, and teachers struggle to balance teaching about global issues accurately, without provoking a sense of despair. Here I want to explore some issues this raises for geography education, by posing four questions:

In education for the Anthropocene,

  1. What does it mean to have geographic capabilities?
  2. How should geography education handle the relationship between knowledge and values?
  3. Should subject teachers collaborate more across subjects?
  4. (in conclusion) What ‘levers’ could be used to develop curricula and pedagogies?

I offer some brief reflections on each question, here:

1.         What does it mean to have ‘geographic capabilities’?

The GeoCapabilities project has developed some very useful conceptual tools for teachers. It has brought theories of curriculum, curriculum-making, collaborative teacher-led curriculum development, powerful disciplinary knowledge (PDK) and powerful pedagogies together. I think its most significant contribution has been to help geography teachers and educators to articulate why teaching geography matters. It does so by the idea that some geographical knowledge (thinking geographically, with concepts) is essential for people to be able to make choices that enable them to live a life they value. GeoCapabilities thus articulates a connection between learning geography and human development – and not just in the narrow instrumental sense (of skills or qualifications leading to a job).

However, knowledge capabilities as individual freedoms raise questions about how other people, and other living things are considered in human development. Nussbaum’s (2011) list of capabilities requires more than knowledge. Her list involves capabilities for affiliation, forming attachments, care and loving relationships, and to engage politically. Geography teachers know that a great geography lesson often involves debate, different viewpoints and the chance to apply and explore the implications of geographical knowledge for people’s choices, as well as for more powerful decision-makers. GeoCapabilities remains a very helpful heuristic, but perhaps the next step in the project could be to explore further, the relationship between geographical knowledge and the values/ ethical dimension informing how that knowledge is used. This resonates with the OECD global competencies (2018) which connects knowledge, values, attitudes and skills, for understanding, engagement and action for sustainable development…This brings me to the second question:

2.         How should geography education handle the relationship between knowledge and values?

I have been lucky enough to have been involved in a collaboration of three universities (UCL, Karlstadt and Helsinki) exploring subject specific teaching and teacher education in various subjects. The group, called the KOSS network, has been exploring the educational contribution of disciplinary knowledge using notions of ‘powerful disciplinary knowledge’ (PDK) (see Young and Muller, 2010) and ‘epistemic quality’ (Hudson et al, 2022). Working with the KOSS network has led me to ask – is the knowledge focus, under-playing the role of values in curriculum? If disciplinary knowledge is powerful in enabling new ways of thinking about the world, how do values, the ethical and the political shape the use of that power? From this we can pose the question, how should subject teaching engage with values, the ethical and the political as young people make sense of the knowledge they are taught?

These questions led Religious Education (RE) educator, Alexis Stones, and I to explore this further together, in the context of the Anthropocene and the turbulent, uncertain times we are in. We have written a paper in which we unpack the relationships between curriculum, disciplinary knowledge, values, and ethical perspectives. We make the case for repositioning values and ethics as central to understanding how curriculum knowledge can be educationally powerful (Mitchell and Stones, 2022). Our thinking is informed by the notion of knowledge capabilities. The GeoCapabilities project, phase 3, explores the teaching of migration with a capabilities lens, showing how disciplinary knowledge (the geography of migration) and emotions, values and ethics were woven together (Mitchell, 2022). For example, in thinking about human rights, the morality of refugee treatment, inequalities and injustices around migrant movements and so forth. It also brought to light how knowledge capabilities around an issue or debate (like migration) cannot be contained by one discipline or school subject. Understanding migration for instance, requires some historical knowledge. More widely, students making sense of concepts such as the Anthropocene and sustainability requires history, as well as notions of stewardship, care, meanings of life and different worldviews, including marginalised indigenous voices – concepts developed in RE. 

There is already a well-developed field of literature in values education, including in school geography (see Slater, 1996 and Mitchell, 2018). The field of education for sustainable development is another huge field. Both fields remind us that different political/philosophical positions towards potential futures mean a once-and-for-all school geography stance toward global issues is neither possible, nor desirable, and so the ongoing debate is necessary. However, my point here is about the idea of ‘powerful disciplinary knowledge’ (PDK). It is very important that teachers are educated and updated with knowledge from the discipline. Take the topic of development, for example. Rostow’s model portrays development as linear, about growth and ‘maturity’) it is an elegant theory and persistent in school geography – but also misleading and dated. It should be explored by students, but also challenged and complemented by theories of core-periphery, dependency, neo-colonialism, sustainable development, human capabilities and post-development ideas. 

Such knowledge supports a curriculum of engagement, and a sense of possibility which challenges narratives of despair. David Alcock’s arguments about hopeful geography (2019) and Hans Rosling’s foregrounding positive human development data (2019) are relevant here. But there are different versions of truth, different lenses to be applied which combine values positions with knowledge. Different stories of future societies and environment can be told. We receive a stream of bad news in the media, not always, but in general, stories of human suffering, cruelty and brutality are amplified by the news, reinforcing a narrative that people are inherently self-centred and greedy. But this is a distorted view of people and the world. The story can change, and with it the belief of what is possible in the future. There is much evidence that people are overwhelmingly kind, compassionate and social (see Monbiot, 2018 and Bregman, 2020). So, PDK is important, but there are different knowledges, and they should be explored through values to get as close as possible to truth about people and planet.

3.         Should subject teachers collaborate more across subjects?

Many important, issue-based geographical topics like migration, climate change, energy, geopolitics, and development, can neither be ‘known’ nor the implications of that knowledge explored (through discussion about possible futures, solutions, actions needed and so forth) without a range of disciplinary lenses. Understanding climate change and the Anthropocene, for example, benefits from using atmospheric chemistry and physics to understand the greenhouse effect, mathematics to calculate and extrapolate changes, history to understand industrial change and mercantilism, RE to explore care and stewardship, economics to understand scarcity, resource pressures and cost-benefit, citizenship to explore rights and responsibilities, English, art and music to explore different narratives, emotional and expressive responses to the changing world. Taking just geography and history, it is hard to disentangle one from the other in some of the most significant work to understand society and environment, for example Harari’s sweeping and exploratory writing (2011) is a story of human history but also how people’s relationship with the earth has come to be and might be in the future. Another is Malm’s analysis of ‘fossil capitalism’ and the roots of global warming (2016) which blends historical and geographical lenses.  Both disciplines deal with change, both need to understand past events to understand the present and both offer ways to approach the future.

Taking this a step further, we can ask, what human attributes (or ‘capabilities’ in a broad sense) does society need to deal with climate change and its environmental, social, and economic challenge? I suggest some are:

  • science, logic, calculation, and precision
  • empathy, ethics, and care for others
  • political literacy and social understanding
  • creativity, imagination, and vision
  • cultural awareness and a long historical view
  • a sense of scale and how people and nature connect at different levels
  • new stories to be written and old ones challenged.  

Many different types of knowledge, skills and values are needed, and these come from a wide range of subject disciplines. 

Such knowledge, skills and values can be learned separately, through discrete subjects, but making connections across subjects is powerful. For me, one way geography is interesting and meaningful, is by putting the concepts, ideas, and techniques of other subjects to use in real world contexts. I am not advocating for collapsing subject boundaries here, but for finding ways for subject teachers to talk together and collaborate to develop their curricula. This is what we have begun to do in UCL’s ‘sustainability across subjects’ project (SAS, 2022) with trainee subject teachers. We borrowed the GeoCapabilities principle of applying a disciplinary lens to texts, images, and discussions about ‘the Anthropocene’, in collaborative student teacher groups. The difference to GeoCapabilities being that the disciplinary lenses are not just geography but a wide range of school subjects. 

In the SAS project so far, we have found that teachers value the collaboration and reflection across subjects. We suspect that this collaboration develops both better understanding of how other subjects think about sustainability, and clearer understanding off their own subject’s contribution (though we do not yet have this evidence). We have also found there are substantial barriers to cross-subject collaboration for teaching about and for sustainability, including teachers feeling under constant pressure, accountability for exam results, feeling that (in most schools) education for sustainability is not taken seriously and secondary PGCE being (currently) quite siloed into subjects. 

At UCL-IOE we are exploring ways to support greater collaborative work across subjects, including through the new Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability Education (CCCSE 2022). This will include developing research informed professional development courses and materials to be made freely available to teachers. Some of these will be aimed at specific subject teachers, but also, they will cross subject boundaries. I believe this will not diminish the PDK of subjects but will only enhance it. This is because, by carefully exploring their own subject’s disciplinary structure in relation to other subjects, teachers are pushed to articulate their distinctive contribution to education for sustainability.

Conclusion – What ‘levers’ could be used to develop geography curricula and pedagogies?

In this blog piece, I have raised some questions which I hope will encourage debate about how school geography can evolve to continue making an important contribution to education. I see this as a hopeful school geography, in which teachers and students alike find satisfaction and an excitement about the future. But what can support this evolution? Oates (2011) explored the levers controlling school curriculums (what gets taught and how), including national curriculum requirements, exam boards, inspection and accountability measures, funding, teacher training and professional development. When (and if) these are aligned to pull in the same direction ‘curriculum coherence’ (ibid) makes for high performing education systems. The trick, I believe, is to make sure the epistemic quality (see Hudson et al, 2022) of subjects inputting to these factors is also high, for the most powerful, engaging and rewarding school geography teaching.

I want to conclude by considering just one lever for change here – the Geographical Association’s (GA), forthcoming curriculum framework. This project, led by Eleanor Rawling with a steering group, has been developed with advisory input from teachers, academic geographers, and educators. I had the privilege of being part of initial steering group discussions. Currently in draft form, it is to be trialled with various groups before being published online in 2023. The framework is not a model school curriculum or list of content, rather it helps to understand how the discipline of geography should inform how a school geography curriculum is developed. The framework’s stated purposes are:

‘…to identify key concepts, significant features and distinctive approaches of the discipline of geography; to highlight how these features can contribute to the education of young people; and to clarify how this should inform the development of the school curriculum at national level.’ (GA, 2022: 1)

The framework is intended to be used at a range of levels from national, including government departments, to sub-national level, by awarding organisations, publishers, and subject organisations (including the GA and RGS-IBG) geography educators and Multi-Academy Trust geography leaders for instance, and at local level, by individual schools and teachers. The framework offers a clear and forward-looking way to think about geographical knowledge by breaking it into three areas of: ‘geographical key concepts’ (thinking like a geographer); ‘geographical practice’ (how geographers find out); and ‘geographical application’ (how geographers make use of geography). 

The second and third categories particularly, show the inescapable connection between knowledge and values. The description of ‘geographical practice’ includes:

‘…recognition of the values and moral/ethical dimensions involved in any enquiry and development of one’s own moral and ethical stance.’

The ethical dimension is also implied as part of geographical application, described as:

‘…applying knowledge, understanding and skills to real world challenges and issues – living peacefully and productively with others and ensuring our future on the planet.’ (GA, 2022: 3)

I believe the GA’s framework is a key moment in the evolution in the geographical knowledge debate, by encouraging the connection of knowledge and values in curriculum thinking. If used well, it is a significant way to leverage geography curriculum development. For both students and teachers, this can help revitalise school geography toward a curriculum of engagement and hopeful futures.

Acknowledgements

For their support and collaborative work in developing the ideas I draw on in this blog piece, I am most grateful to Alexis Stones, members of the KOSS network, the GeoCapabilities3 project team and the GA curriculum framework steering group.

References and weblinks

Alcock, D. (2019). Optimism, progress and geography–celebration and calibration. Teaching Geography, 44 (3), 118-121.

Bregman, R. (2020). Humankind: A hopeful history. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

CCCSE (2022) https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/departments-and-centres/centres/ucl-centre-climate-change-and-sustainability-education

Geographical Association (2022) A Framework for the School Geography Curriculum (draft version not yet published) 

Harari, Y. (2011) Sapiens: A brief history of Humankind. London: Vintage

Hudson, B., Gericke, N., Olin-Scheller, C. and Stolare, M. (eds) (2022) International Perspectives on Knowledge and Quality Implications for Innovation in Teacher Education Policy and Practice: Reinventing teacher education. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Malm, A. (2016). Fossil capital: The rise of steam power and the roots of global warming. London: Verso Books.

Mitchell, D. (2018) ‘Handling controversial issues in geography’ in D. Lambert and M. Jones (eds.) Debates in Geography Education, Second Edition. Abingdon: Routledge.

Mitchell, D. (2022) ‘GeoCapabilities 3 –Knowledge and Values in Education for the Anthropocene’. International Review of Geography and Environmental Education. Available online https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10382046.2022.2133353 

Mitchell, D. and Stones, A. (2022) ‘Disciplinary knowledge for what ends? The values dimension of curriculum research in the Anthropocene’. London Review of Education, 20 (1), 23.

Monbiot, G. (2018) Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. London: Verso

Morton, T. (2014) Hyperobjects: philosophy and ecology after the end of the world. Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press.

Nussbaum, M. (2011). Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

Oates, T. (2011): ‘Could do better: using international comparisons to refine the National Curriculum in England’. Curriculum Journal, 22 (2), 121-150.

OECD (2018) https://www.oecd.org/pisa/innovation/global-competence/

Rosling, H. (2019). Factfulness. Paris: Flammarion.

SAS (2022) https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/departments-and-centres/centres/centre-climate-change-and-sustainability-education/sustainability-across-subjects-sas

Slater, F. (1996) ‘Values: Toward mapping their locations in a geography education’, in A. Kent, D. Lambert, M. Naish and F. Slater (eds) Geography in education: Viewpoints on teaching and learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Young, M. & Muller, J. (2010) ‘Three Educational Scenarios for the Future: lessons from the sociology of knowledge’, European Journal of Education, 45(1), 11-26.

Categories
GEReCo Research

Dialogue in Climate Engineering with Youth, or ‘DICEY’

A new project funded as part of the UKRI / Royal Society of Arts ‘Rethinking Public Dialogue’ series.

Dr Elizabeth Rushton (University College London’s Centre for Climate Change and Sustainability Education) and Dr Lynda Dunlop (University of York)

In September 2022, the Royal Society of Arts and UKRI announced a series of nine projects to be funded over the next year focused on ‘Rethinking Public Dialogue’. One of these projects is ‘DICEY’ – Dialogue in Climate Engineering with Youth, co-led by Lynda Dunlop and Lizzie Rushton. DICEY is an innovative approach to public dialogue on emergent science and policy on climate interventions, focusing on question creation. As such, this project sits at the interface of geography and science and also draws on approaches and understanding from geography education and science education. DICEY’s participatory and collaborative approach  involves online workshops with under-represented publics (youth, aged 16-24), scientists, policy-makers and artists. Dialogue will result in the production of artist-illustrated ‘climate questions’ cards, to stimulate further online public dialogue. DICEY is intended to be inclusive and intergenerational, involving reciprocal relationships with participants, and inverting norms to make scientists and policy-makers the ‘public’ for youth questions.  

DICEY builds upon existing research on dialogue in climate interventions and is set against the context in which young people report feelings of betrayal and anxiety associated with beliefs about inadequate government response to climate change (Hickman et al., 2021). In the context of climate interventions, the dominant approach to researching public engagement to date has been to ask participants (typically, adults) to appraise the acceptability of different proposals, often involving presentations by researchers ‘close to the science’. This presents a particular challenge for new technologies because public awareness tends to be low (Scheer & Renn, 2014), and so there has been a move towards deliberative approaches which introduce new ideas to various publics. Challenges associated with these approaches include deferral to scientific authority, even on non-scientific questions, and problematic framings (Corner & Pidgeon, 2015), for example natural framings (such as comparisons with volcanic eruptions) or those which favour fast-acting and impactful climate interventions (Mahajan, Tingley & Wagner, 2019). Dialogue is often structured around specific techniques with little consideration of alternative (social, political, economic) responses to climate change. Attempts have been made to respond to these challenges (cf. Bellamy et al., 2014) through a reduced role for scientists and the use of tentative language to design interventions. DICEY, in contrast, fully involves scientists and policy-makers in a different capacity – as accountable to youth questions and concerns – through public switching – and builds youth capacity to participate in dialogue. DICEY puts youth in the position of identifying their priorities, articulating concerns and creating questions for those who are in positions of influence – and engaging scientists and policy-makers directly with these questions. This mitigates impacts of issue framing and the presence of scientific authorities and allows youth to frame issues in ways relevant to them.

DICEY builds on Lynda and Lizzie’s previous work, ‘Geoengineering: a climate of uncertainty?’ where, through a series of online workshops, they engaged youth (18-25 years) from across Europe in the scientific, ethical, social and political dimensions of climate intervention, resulting in the co-authorship of a policy brief and academic articles (Dunlop et al., 2021; 2022). This project forms an important baseline for DICEY, and the principles of reciprocity, co-authorship, questioning and dialogue, have been incorporated into the design of DICEY. Although ‘climate of uncertainty?’ was dialogic in its methods, the team is not involved in science or policy-making in geoengineering. DICEY makes this connection between youth, scientists and policy-makers.   

Workshops with youth (16-24 years) will take place in late 2022, with a second phase of workshops with policy-makers and scientists in early 2023. If you would like to be involved in either series of workshops or would like to find out more about the project, please do get in touch with Lizzie (l.rushton@ucl.ac.uk) or Lynda (lynda.dunlop@york.ac.uk) or follow us on Twitter – @RushtonDr and @UYSEG. More information about the full series of projects can be found at @theRSAorg 

References

Bellamy, R., Chilvers, J., & Vaughan, N. E. (2014). Deliberative mapping of options for tackling climate change: Citizens and specialists ‘open up’ appraisal of geoengineering. Public Understanding of Science, 25(3), 269–286.

Corner, A., Parkhill, K., Pigeon, N., & Vaughan, N. E. (2013). Messing with nature? Exploring public perceptions of geoengineering in the UK. Global Environmental Change, 23(5), 938–947.

Dunlop, L., Rushton, E.A.C., Atkinson, L., Blake, C., Calvert, S., Cornelissen, E., Dècle, C.M.M., De Schriver, J., Dhassi, K.K., Edwards, R.P.R., Malaj, G., Mirjanić, J., Saunders, W.E.H., Sinkovec, Y., Stadnyk, T., Štofan, J., Stubbs, J.E., Su, C., Turkenburg-van Diepen, M., Vellekoop, S., Veneu, F. and Yuan, X. (2021). An introduction to the co-creation of policy briefs with youth and academic teams. Journal of Geography in Higher Educationhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03098265.2021.2001793.

Dunlop, L., Rushton, E.A.C., Atkinson, L., Blake, C., Calvert, S., Cornelissen, E., Dècle, C.M.M., De Schriver, J., Dhassi, K.K., Edwards, R.P.R., Malaj, G., Mirjanić, J., Saunders, W.E.H., Sinkovec, Y., Stadnyk, T., Štofan, J., Stubbs, J.E., Su, C., Turkenburg-van Diepen, M., Vellekoop, S., Veneu, F. and Yuan, X. (2022). Youth co-authorship as public engagement with geoengineering. International Journal of Science Education (Part B).https://doi.org/10.1080/21548455.2022.2027043

Hickman, C., Marks, E., Pihkala, P., Clayton, S., Lewandowski, R. E., Mayall, E. E., … & van Susteren, L. (2021). Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: a global survey. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5(12), e863-e873.

Mahajan, A., Tingley, D., & Wagner, G. (2019). Fast, cheap, and imperfect? US public opinion about solar geoengineering. Environmental Politics, 28(3), 523–543.

Scheer, D., & Renn, O. (2014). Public perception of geoengineering and its consequences for public debate. Climatic Change, 125(3), 305–318.

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