New School Geographies: Engaging young people?
Griffiths, Helen Gwyneth
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
In 2003 school geography was in a state of crisis: enrolment in GCSE geography courses had fallen by a third over the previous eight years. In response, a radical new ‘pilot’ geography GCSE course was designed and implemented in England. The GCSE was an attempt to rejuvenate a school subject that had become out of date, with little change to its content since the inauguration of the National Curriculum in 1988. With student-centred learning at its heart the GCSE aimed to make the subject much more exciting and relevant to young people. The following thesis examines alternative pedagogical approaches to teaching school geography that draw on young people’s experiences as citizens and consumers to make geography more relevant and interesting to them. Written as an unfolding story this multi-sited ethnography began by exploring the networks behind the pilot. This involved not only several different actors/groups of actors (including geography educators, academic geographers, geography teachers and school pupils) but also several different spaces (including schools, classrooms, organisation headquarters, working group meetings and publications). It moves on to examine how the GCSE’s approaches to teaching, learning and assessing were being played out in practice and to what extent its aims, claims and intentions were being realised in the classroom. Through exploring the pilot’s approach to the pedagogy of school geography my research became action-oriented in approach, and I became involved in co-creating critical, connective curriculum materials for the GCSE. The development of these new materials and teaching and learning strategies are situated within debates in human geography about critical pedagogy, young people’s geographies and public geographies and the thesis forges links between these different theoretical strands. I conclude by asking what lessons can be learnt from the pilot GCSE and its implications for the role of geography within a wider educational context. Written autoethnographically to reflect the collaborative and iterative nature of my research my intention has been to critically engage with multiple publics who are involved in this area.
Economic and Social Research Council
PhD in Geography