General Comments

Reflections on Experience in School Education

Comment from Received
Teresa Ploszajska 23 February 99
Susan Hardwick 2 March 99
Michael Williams 7 March 99
Ken Foote 12 March 99
Brian Chalkley 16 March 99

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Teresa Ploszajska, Liverpool Hope University College, UK

I very much welcome such eminent and articulate calls for strengthened school / HE interfaces, which to my knowledge have traditionally been very weak in the UK. Indeed, even as we approach the new millennium, academic Research Assessment Exercises (RAEs) here (an important source of government funding for an increasing number of university departments) continue actively to conspire towards the marginalisation of scholarly activities in this direction. To date, initiatives such as Geography Action Weeks and Land Use-UK remain extraordinary events, memorable primarily for their novelty. Yet my own historical research of geography teaching and learning in English schools suggests that geography educators of all levels have many valuable lessons to learn from our predecessors. For example, simulation and role-play activities (referred to by these contributors as having been pioneered by the American High School Geography Project) and ambitious programmes of personal correspondence were being devised and developed by Elementary School teachers over a century ago. And all of this while geography was, at best, an embryonic discipline within the academy. I was therefore extremely heartened by Burkhill, Rawling, Bendarz and Lidstone's insistence that channels must be opened for a two-way pedagogical and curricular exchange between schools and HE institutions. At the very crudest level, this is surely essential, given that today's school pupils are tomorrow's undergraduates and trainee teachers.

At present, RAE-2001 looms large in the consciousness of many HE geography educators in the UK. The flurry of research and publishing activity intensifies almost daily as jointly and severally we strive to attain that all-important status as 'national' or 'international' scholars. Increasingly it is a truism that colleagues the world over are having to balance, or worse still juggle, the imperatives of teaching and research. Yet as the authors of this paper remark, educational research is seldom considered as an international matter. Within these global contexts, this Symposium's collaborative research- and experience-based discussion papers strike me as an inspirational means of addressing these and other pressing issues. I hope and believe that internationalising educational discourses among geography teachers represents the first crucial step towards internationalising geography among learners.

Dr Teresa Ploszajska, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography
Liverpool Hope University College, Hope Park, Liverpool, L16 9JD, UK



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Susan Hardwick, Dept. of Geography and Planning, Southwest Texas State University, USA

Yes, I agree there has long been a real need for university educators to talk to each other about geo-pedagogy! This paper really gets the discussion organized. So let's get the discourse rolling!

I admit to feeling overburdened and, at times, even disinterested, in discussions of curriculum projects, teaching strategies, and assessment "talk." These have all been important steps for us and more needs to be done and said but... I believe it is well past time for us to move beyond this toward a more theoretical discussion of our "trade."

Let's bring our commitment to solid research into the teaching and learning arena - do we really know what works? If so, how do we know it works in other places? The international agenda proposed in this very well written paper is definitely the place to begin.

Susan Hardwick
Dept. of Geography and Planning, Southwest Texas State University, USA
Voice: (512) 245-1724; Fax: (512) 245-8353; Email: A HREF="">



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Michael Williams, University of Wales Swansea, UK

From the perspective of England and Wales, insufficient attention has been paid to the external pressures in both SE and HE from inspection and examination arrangements. At SE level, this appears to have has resulted in an ever-increasing dependence on textbook-based teaching combined with drill and rehearsal. These patterns of teacher behaviour need to be set alongside enquiry approaches.

I would certainly support the comments made for the need for more research. It is striking that in England and Wales there must be more than 70 institutions of higher education that are engaged in the in-service education and training of geography teachers. Assuming that each of these institutions employs at least one geographical education specialist, it would be reasonable for each one of them to produce at least one international (Grade 5 RAE) paper a year, i.e. 70 major papers a year. The Foskett and Marsden book demonstrates clearly that this has not been achieved in recent years.

In my opinion, what is lacking most is any serious on-going research into the ways school students and HE students learn geography. Where are there studies on such basic concepts as motivation, self-efficacy and memory in the context of geographical learning? Where are the longitudinal studies necessary for a greater understanding to be gained about progression and the overcoming of the difficulties of inter-institutional transition? And where is the evidence to demonstrate that enquiry learning is more effective (in a learning framework) than textbook-based drill?

Michael Williams

IGU Education Network Project Co-ordinator, University of Wales Swansea, UK E-mail



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Ken Foote, University of Texas at Austin, USA

I was particularly impressed with this paper and its articulation of the potential benefits of international collaboration. I also support the paper's position that efforts to develop an international network must carefully consider the interplay between school and higher ed geography.

I still believe, however, that attention to issues of geography in higher education merit more attention than they often receive, particularly in the US. Over the past 10-15 years, interest in the geography education in the US has come to be equated with school geography almost exclusively. One way or another, we need to cultivate greater interest in higher ed issues.

Ken Foote
University of Texas at Austin, USA



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Brian Chalkley, University of Plymouth, UK

The call for more collaboration between geographers in secondary and tertiary education is greatly to be welcomed. Both sides have much to gain from closer links. For teachers in school there is the opportunity to stay in touch with current developments in the subject and to obtain a window on the kinds of geography courses which are now available for school leavers moving on to degree-level study. For teachers in the tertiary sector too there can be tangible benefits, not least in ensuring curriculum progression. I know from personal experience that those of us working in Universities have much to learn from the school experience. In my own department, for example, our work in placing academic colleagues with "industrial" host organisations was modelled very closely on the teacher placement scheme which is a long-established feature of the UK secondary education system.

The paper by Burkill et al successfully highlights the possible teaching and learning advantages and benefits from closer collaboration between the two sectors. I would add that there are very real threats and dangers for geography if we do not work together. Certainly those of us teaching in higher education need to be reminded that our capacity to recruit students depends in no small measure on the quality and appeal of geography teaching in schools. Perhaps, therefore, one role for the emergent international network might be to identify and share examples of best practice in forging links across the secondary/tertiary frontier. Could we assemble perhaps, 10 or 15 case studies from around the world and encourage, where appropriate, their wider adoption? Why not learn from each other about how to bridge the sectoral divide?

Brian Chalkley
Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK

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