Becoming lost within relational, democratic geographical fieldwork spaces.
Date: 28 May 2019
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
EdD in Education
In the spirit of exploration and enquiry that is embodied within the discipline of geography, this thesis sets out on an adventure into ‘terra incognita’ to experiment with coming to know geographical fieldwork practices within a primary education context. This is a thesis about how children could be brought into relation with the world ...
In the spirit of exploration and enquiry that is embodied within the discipline of geography, this thesis sets out on an adventure into ‘terra incognita’ to experiment with coming to know geographical fieldwork practices within a primary education context. This is a thesis about how children could be brought into relation with the world through a different kind of geography fieldwork .The current National Curriculum for geography in England (Department for Education (DfE), 2013) foregrounds a knowledge-rich curriculum that makes distinctions between the physical and human, seeking to introduce children and young people to the world as an 'object of thought' rather than as a 'place of experience' (Lambert, Rawling, Hopkin and Kinder, 2012:7). This thesis seeks to unsettle dominant discourses and works with the tensions and discomfort this causes to propose an expanded notion of geographical fieldwork that places relational thinking and understanding at the heart of the subject. Experimenting with posthumanist/new materialist possibilities for relational, democratic fieldwork I embrace an ethico-onto-epistemological stance that seeks to position geographers as ‘becoming’ within more-than-human assemblages. The thesis shares my commitment to thinking and doing geographical education research differently in these times of environmental crisis. It partially reveals the complexities and intricacies of encounters during a weekend residential geographical fieldwork event within the New Forest National Park around Minstead in Hampshire, United Kingdom in July 2017. It shares the happenings, beings and doings of 12 geography educators as they travel with ideas of place invitations. It follows the geographers’ journeys as they attune and attend to more-than-human/human encounters experimenting with emergent pedagogies that foster surprise and uncertainty. Recent developments in post-qualitative research inspires messy methodologies that seek to disrupt ‘research-as-usual’ (Gannon, 2016:129). I work with ‘getting lost’ as a way of knowing (Lather, 2007) and the notion of ‘productively failing’ (Koro-Ljungberg, 2016a) to invite critical and creative practices to emerge as I ‘befriend my data as an ontologically significant non-human’ (Rautio, 2017:23). Inspired by Bennett’s (2010) radical conception of materialism and matter and Barad’s (2007) ideas of intra-action, I conceptualise fieldwork spaces as alive, inter-connected and in the process of formation. This is a collaborative, hopeful project of attunement, openness, attention and entanglement. A diffractive analysis (Mazzei, 2014:743) is employed to purposefully ‘plug in’ data/theory/practice from a wide range of fields to honour ‘multiplicity, ambiguity’ and seek new connections. Through relational stories, experimental writing/poetry and collage some of the geographers’ sensory, embodied and affective encounters with stream, trees, bog, heath, ponies, fire, sticks, leaves, flowers and bracken are shared. Emerging from the thesis is the notion of fieldwork sites as lively and generative; meeting places for difference. Relational fieldwork is contingent, fluid and improvised in the moment. It fosters a pedagogical approach to geographical fieldwork through enchanting encounters with more-than-human elements that engages with ideas of equality, agency and democracy. A relational, enchanted geography entangles learners within a more-than-human community and offers possibilities to ‘turn up the colour and tune in to the world’ (Geoghegan and Woodyer 2014: 219) in order to rethink geographical fieldwork pedagogies.
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