|Title||Role Plays in the History and Philosophy of Geography|
|Department||School of Contemporary Studies, Westminster College, Oxford|
|Tel.||+44 (0)1865 247644 Extn 5210|
|Fax.||+44 (0)1865 251847|
Having used role plays in teaching contemporary issues in geography, the students were introduced to a course on the Development of Geographical Thought. The aim was to gain the usual advantages of role plays, but specifically to increase levels of participation and critical engagement in an area of the course which students find dry and difficult to relate to.
Role plays included those concerned with institutional events, such as the issue of women's membership of the Royal Geographical Society 1892-3, and debates about geographical issues taken from different theoretical perspectives, with the characters making applied geographical decisions informed by Marxist, feminist or possibilist approaches, for example. The main benefit in using historical role plays was helping students to see the debate in the context of the period, that is, avoiding the worst pitfalls of simplistic presentist judgements, particularly those relating to gender. Although caricature had to be avoided, 'theory characters' were particularly helpful as a summary of different approaches and helped students feel that 'isms' had practical relevance and outcomes. Combined with text-based round table seminars, lectures and student's in-depth presentations, the use of role plays was an effective means of engaging students with some of the historical and philosophical aspects of the course, as well as adding variety in delivery.