Going Global: Developing an International Network for Learning and Teaching Geography in Higher Education

Iain Hay (Flinders University), Ken Foote (University of Texas at Austin) and Mick Healey (Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education)


0   Scenarios
1   Introduction
2   Setting the Context
2.1   Challenges
2.2   Opportunities
3   Aims of the Network
3.1   Development, Discussion and Dissemination
3.2   Coordination and Co-operation
3.3   Recognition and Continuation
4   Making a Network Work
4.1   Faculty/Lecturer Issues and Concerns
4.2   Institutional Factors
4.3   Overcoming Barriers
5   First Steps toward Building an International Network
6   Discussion Questions
7   References Cited
Appendix 1   Higher Education Geography Education Projects, Groups and Journals
Appendix 2   List of Abbreviations

0   Scenarios

Dr. Flinders (Australia) has heard about active-learning strategies and would like to use them to redesign a course she teaches in urban geography. She visits the International Network for Learning and Teaching Geography in Higher Education (INLT) Web site and finds that she can order guides on lecturing and resource-based learning in geography which discuss the use of active-learning strategies from the Geography Discipline Network (GDN) in Cheltenham, can find some good on-line examples at Clark University and that the Virtual Fieldcourse Project at Leicester provides links to virtual fieldcourses for a selection of world cities which she can use in her practical classes. She also sees in the latest INLT Newsletter that a two-day workshop is being offered on active learning strategies at the next INLT meeting, which is being held following the Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) Annual Conference.

Dr. Gloucester (UK) has just joined the staff of a large university and has been asked to update and teach an introductory lecture-laboratory class in physical geography. He would like to know how other instructors organize their courses, what textbooks are popular, and whether there are some good lab exercises available. He visits the INLT Web site and finds that there are six syllabi in a course registry that look particularly promising, contacts three of the instructors (Canada, New Zealand and Brazil) to ask their advice, orders desk copies of three texts directly from the publishers' Web pages (Oxford, New York and San Francisco), and discovers some excellent suggestions for lab work on the GDN Resource Database. Finally, he books a place on a workshop on practical work in geography organised by the Higher Education Study Group (HESG) of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG).

Professor Austin (US) chairs a small department in a state university that is considering developing a new concentration in geoinformatics to increase declining graduate enrollment. She wonders what sorts of faculty and laboratory resources will be required, how the concentration should be organized, and if there are advantages to joining a distance-education consortium like UNIGIS. She visits the INLT Web site and finds some very good outlines for such a program at the NCGIA in Santa Barbara, discovers that a similar program is being organized at a university in a nearby state and telephones the chair and arranges a visit. She searches the GDN site and finds an abstract of an article which has recently been published in the Journal of Geography in Higher Education (JGHE) on international perspectives on distance education, which arose from the inaugural INLT Symposium held in Honolulu in 1999. She also discovers that the Virtual Geography Department (VGD) has a GIS Group which is developing Web-based instructional materials. She makes a note to explore it later.

 

1   Introduction

This 'White Paper' is the first of a set of nine papers which has been written to stimulate an Internet discussion on 'Learning and Teaching Geography in Higher Education'. The debate is the precursor to an International Symposium on this topic being held on 23 March 1998 in Honolulu before the commencement of the AAG99 Conference. It proposes that geographers should develop an International Network for Learning and Teaching (INLT) devoted to the improvement of learning and teaching geography in higher education. This network is intended to promote communication and cooperation among geography courses worldwide. The network should help to improve geography education through the creation and dissemination of high-quality instructional materials, by identifying examples of good practice in higher education and through discussion of different perspectives on learning and teaching issues facing geography in higher education in different countries.

Although geographers in higher education have accumulated a lot of experience of developing educational networks, at least in relation to most other disciplines, it has been uneven between countries and most networks which have been developed have been project-based. There is a need now not only for more countries to develop educational networks and for those countries which have developed networks to find ways of embedding their networks permanently in the way their subject functions in higher education, but also to compare and share practices and cooperate on joint projects internationally (Healey, 1998a). Lessons may be learnt from the way in which existing educational organisations in geography (Appendix 1), such as the JGHE and the International Geographical Union Commission on Geographical Education (IGU-CGE), operate internationally.

This proposal responds to the many challenges and opportunities now faced by geography courses all around the world. In many cases, courses are challenged by the need to respond to increased student diversity, rapidly changing workforce demands, and continuing financial austerity. There is little need for educators to reinvent responses to these challenges if effective solutions have been formulated elsewhere (Hay, 1996). An international discipline-based network offers one promising means of overcoming educational isolationism and ensuring that pedagogical 'wheels' are not reinvented repeatedly to solve problems common to many nations.

An international network would also draw strength from recent educational developments and opportunities. Over the past decade geographers have been at the forefront of instructional innovation in their home nations. The result has been the creation of a large body of new instructional materials and pedagogical resources. One aim of an international network would be the widest possible dissemination of these new materials and resources as well as the creation of additional examples of best practice. This work will be aided immeasurably by new opportunities offered by information and computer technologies (ICT). The Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) offer means of communication, collaboration, and publication that were unavailable only a few years ago. These telecommunications technologies present geographers with new means of creating long-term, global alliances. Where learning and teaching developments in geography were once confined mainly to specific departments, we now have the opportunity to discuss and disseminate new developments immediately with interested colleagues elsewhere (Garcia-Ramon & Monk 1997, p. 144; Healey 1998b, p. 10). This is not to argue, however, that ICT will replace face-to-face contact. The evidence suggests on the contrary that increased contact through telecommunications will raise the demand for meetings to discuss topics of common interest and to plan joint projects. Hence a key feature of the INLT will be to hold periodic meetings to facilitate these essential face-to-face contacts.

Efforts to build an international network or alliance of geographer educators do, of course, face barriers. Yet there is growing academic and governmental recognition that discipline-based networks offer significant pedagogic and resource benefits (Hay 1996, p. 277; Healey 1998a and b). Because a discipline-network operates on a larger scale than individual departments, it can draw from a broader range of skills and experiences, and may attract larger sources of support from outside agencies.

This paper attempts to promote a discussion about 'going global' by commenting briefly on four main questions:

  1. What are the principal challenges and opportunities facing geography in higher education?
  2. What activities might the INLT undertake?
  3. What are the barriers to an international alliance and how could they be overcome?
  4. What tasks should the INLT consider undertaking over the next two to three years?
The paper ends with a set of discussion questions, which readers are invited to respond to through the pre-symposium Internet discussion. Other papers in this set expand on particular issues and topics concerned with internationalizing the learning and teaching of geography in higher education.

 

2   Setting the Context

The past decade has been witness to dramatic shifts in higher education. It is worth noting briefly some of the challenges and opportunities that set the stage for the present proposal.

2.1   Challenges

2.2   Opportunities

One means of trying to cope with the changing political economy and cultures of higher education and responding to new institutional pressures is to pool educational resources produced in different contexts, exchange experiences of good practice and develop mechanisms that might facilitate widescale pedagogic co-operation. It is perhaps fortuitous that while university geography-educators have been asked to 'do more with less' in the last decade there have also emerged technological and collegial opportunities for significant local and international collaboration.

 

3   Aims of the Network

An international geography education network should contribute to the improvement of tertiary-level geography education by providing mechanisms by which geographers can communicate with one another, coordinate, co-operate and encourage activities of mutual interest, disseminate good practice and recognise excellence and innovation (Healey, 1998a). In more detail, these activities might include three main topic areas.

3.1   Development, Discussion and Dissemination

3.2   Coordination and Co-operation

3.3   Recognition and Continuation

 

4   Making a Network Work

A workable international alliance cannot be developed without overcoming the barriers that stand in the way of such cooperation. Some of these obstacles relate to the concerns of faculty/lecturers wishing to participate; others arise from institutional settings.

4.1   Faculty/Lecturer Issues and Concerns

4.2   Institutional Factors

4.3   Overcoming Barriers

Some recent collaborative projects indicate how some of these obstacles outlined above have been surmounted (Foote, 1999). Many of these successful projects have sought to:

 

5   First Steps toward Building an International Network

The points in the last section imply that attempts to create an international alliance over the next two to three years should be focused and build on existing good practices, such as are illustrated in the other discussion papers. Below are suggested three examples of such tasks, which range in their level of difficulty from 'relatively straightforward', through 'modestly challenging' to 'visionary':

 

6   Discussion Questions

Internet Discussion Comments

  1. Do you think that there is a need to establish an international network for learning and teaching geography in higher education? If so why?
  2. If you think that there is a need for such a network, what should its aims be?
  3. How do you think we can make the network work? How can we best overcome or limit the barriers to making the network function effectively and achieve its aims? What can we learn from the experience of other educational networks which operate internationally, such as the JGHE and the IGU-CGE?
  4. What do you think we should do to bring the network into existence? What do we need to have in place by the time the Symposium has finished? What should the initial targets be? How do we set about achieving these targets? Who is going to do what?

 

7   References

Anonymous 1981, 'Higher Education Study Group', Area, vol. 13, no. 1, p. 38.

CTISS (Computers in Teaching Initiative Support Service) undated, Communication and information technologies for teaching and learning in higher education, Oxford, CTISS Publications. http://www.cti.ac.uk/

Foote, K. 1999, 'Building disciplinary collaborations in the Worldwide Web: strategies and barriers', Journal of Geography (in press).

Garcia-Ramon, M.D. & Monk, J. 1997, 'Editorial: Infrequent flying: international dialogue in geography in higher education', Journal of Geography in Higher Education, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 141-5.

GESG (Geography Education Specialty Group) 1998, Geography Education Specialty Group homepage

Hands-On! 1998, Developing active learning modules on the human dimensions of global change

Hay, I. 1996, Review of Jenkins, A. and A. Ward. 1995, 'Developing Skill-based Curricula through the Disciplines: Case Studies of Good Practice in Geography', Staff and Educational Development Association, Birmingham. In Australian Geographical Studies, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 275-7

Healey, M. 1998a, 'Editorial I: Developing and internationalising higher education networks in geography', Journal of Geography in Higher Education, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 277-282

Healey, M. 1998b, 'Developing and disseminating good educational practices: lessons from geography in higher education', paper presented to The International Consortium for Educational Development in Higher Education's Second International Conference on 'Supporting Educational, Faculty and TA Development with Departments and Disciplines', Austin, Texas, 19-22 April. In Lewis, K. (Ed.) ICED Conference Proceedings, University of Texas, Austin.

Healey, M. 1999, 'Geography and Higher Education: developing the scholarship of teaching and learning' Progress in Human Geography, vol. 23 (forthcoming)

Healey, M., & Gravestock, P. 1998, 'Identifying and disseminating good practice in the teaching and learning of geography in higher education', in: Bliss, E. (Ed.) Islands: economy, society and environment: proceedings of the Institute of Australian Geographers and New Zealand Geographical Society second joint conference, University of Tasmania, Hobart 1997, New Zealand Geographical Society Conference Series No. 19, pp. 363-367, Hamilton, New Zealand Geographical Society, University of Waikato

Healey, M., Robinson, G. & Castleford, J. 1996, 'Innovation in geography teaching in higher education: developing the potential for computer-assisted learning'. 28th International Geographical Congress, Commission on Geographical Education, Innovation in Geographical Education: Proceedings, Amsterdam, Centrum voor Educatieve Geografie Vrije Universiteit, pp. 119-203

Healey, M., Robinson, G. & Castleford, J. 1998, 'Developing good educational practice: integrating GeographyCal into university courses'. Proceedings of the Institute of Australian Geographers and New Zealand Geographical Society Joint Conference, Hobart.

Healy, G. 1998, 'Turmoil over new tertiary pay claim', The Australian, 28 October

Illing, D. 1998, 'Standards slip at crowded unis', The Australian, 28 October

NCGE (National Council for Geographic Education) 1998, Mission Statement

Robinson, G. & Castleford, J. 1996, 'Promoting the use of information technology for the teaching of geography at universities in the United Kingdom: the Computers in Teaching Initiative'. 28th International Geographical Congress, Commission on Geographical Education, Innovation in Geographical Education: Proceedings, Amsterdam, Centrum voor Educatieve Geografie Vrije Universiteit, pp. 228-30.

QAA (Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education) 1998, 'Quality Assurance: a new approach', Higher Quality, 4, 2-21.

Virtual Geography Department 1998, 'About the Virtual Geography Department Project'

 

Appendix 1   Higher Education Geography Education Projects, Groups and Journals

Alexandria Digital Library (http://www.alexandria.ucsb.edu/), at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency, and NASA, Alexandria focuses on defining cataloguing rules and an interface that can be used eventually to access geospatially referenced materials of all types. Digital library projects like Alexandria promise to make such materials far more easily accessible for teaching and learning.

ARGUS (Activities and Readings on the Geography of the United States) (http://www.aag.org/ARGUS/ARGUS.html) funded by the National Science Foundation and developed at the University of Minnesota under the leadership of Dr. Philip Gersmehl. The aim of the project is to have students learn to use the concepts and skills of geography by analyzing real-world issues in both historical and contemporary contexts. The ARGUS materials are designed to be used in secondary school social studies classes, teacher training courses in geography, and introductory college courses. The project is now being expanded to developing activities and readings for the entire world. The material is used in some introductory higher education courses.

Core Curriculum in Remote Sensing (http://www.umbc.edu/rscc). Like the NCGIA Core Curriculum in GIScience, this group creates authoritative, on-line hypertext handbooks built from chapters or modules contributed by dozens of authors. Edited by Professor Tim Foresman (University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA).

Computers in Teaching Initiative Centre for Geography, Geology & Meteorology (CTIGGM) (http://www.geog.le.ac.uk/cti/index.html) is one of 24 subject-based Centres established under the CTI. "Each centre acts as a first port of call for individual academics and departments wanting to integrate communication and information technologies into their teaching" (CTISS undated). Director: Geoff Robinson (University of Leicester, UK).

Geographical Association (GA) (http://www.geography.org.uk/home.htm) founded in 1893, it exists to further the study and the teaching of geography in all categories of educational institution from school to university in the UK and abroad.

Geography Education Specialty Group (GESG) of the AAG (http://www.colorado.edu/geography/COGA/geoed). GESG is one of the largest Specialty Groups of the AAG and promotes "research, development, and practice in the learning and teaching of geography" (GESG 1998). It achieves these ends through a listserv, printed newsletter, publications programme, and special sessions at national conferences. Much of the attention is focused at the school level.

Geography Alliances of the National Geographical Society (in Washington DC) (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/education/alliance.html). Fifty-four Alliances, with a total membership in excess of 150,000 teachers and academics, exist in all States and Territories of the US. Each Alliance is the energy center for local and statewide efforts to improve geography education. They achieve this by giving teachers the knowledge, skills and materials they need to make geography an exciting subject. Whilst the Geography Alliances have a secondary education focus, they provide a useful point of connection between that sector and university-based educators.

Geography Discipline Network (GDN) (http://www.chelt.ac.uk/gdn). This consortium of nine universities and colleges of higher education is concerned with the identification, development and dissemination of good practice in teaching, learning and assessment in geography in British higher education (Healey & Gravestock 1998; Healey 1998b). It publishes guides, organises conferences and workshops, and maintains an international resource database of over 150 interesting learning and teaching practices. Director: Professor Mick Healey (Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Education, UK).

Geography and Environmental Sciences Network. At the time of writing this is a proposed group to respond to the UK Higher Education Funding Councils' initiative to establish subject centres/networks for learning and teaching, which will have a broader remit than the current CTI Centres and will integrate ICT with other modes of teaching and learning.

GeographyCal. This consortium club is run from the CTIGGM (http://www.geog.le.ac.uk/cti/Tltp/index.htm). The GeographyCal Club aims to develop saleable Computer Assisted Learning packages for undergraduate courses in geography (Healey et al. 1996; 1998; Robinson & Castleford 1996). Director: Geoff Robinson (University of Leicester, UK).

GeographyWeb project team members create Internet-based instructional materials to enhance several undergraduate geography courses across the multi-campus University of Colorado (http://www.Colorado.EDU/geography/COGA/geogweb/). Led by Professor A. David Hill (University of Colorado at Boulder, USA).

'Hands-On!' Project. This US national project developed active learning modules on the human dimensions of global change'. The project focuses on the tertiary-level and modules were produced through a collaborative process that involved module authors, participants in summer workshops, and project staff at Clark University (Hands-On! 1998). The products of the Hands-On! Project are available for purchase through the AAG. Some of the modules are being put on the Web by the VGD. Project Director: Professor Susan Hanson (Clark University, USA).

Higher Education Study Group (HESG) of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG). The HESG was established in 1980 "to encourage concern for and research into teaching methods in geography" (Anonymous 1981, p. 38). Chair: Professor Brian Chalkley (University of Plymouth, UK).

International Geographical Union Commission on Geographical Education (IGU-CGE) (http://fehps.une.edu.au/x/igu/IGU.html) aims to promote geographical education around the world. Chair: Professor Rod Gerber (University of New England, Australia).

International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education (IRGEE) is published twice a year. It provides a forum for individuals and institutions interested in geographical and environmental education. Editors: Professor Rod Gerber (University of New England, Australia) and Dr John Lidstone (Queensland University of Technology, Australia). (http://fehps.une.edu.au/x/igu/Abs.html).

Information System for Los Angeles (ISLA) (http://www.usc.edu/Library/ISLA/) is sponsored by University of Southern California. ISLA is being planned as an integrated digital archival collection for Los Angeles and its region. Like other collections, ISLA will contain textual sources (books, newspapers, theses, dissertations, and manuscripts), photographs, video, scanned maps, and demographic data. It will serve as a prototype of the types of digital collections that might soon be available for geography education.

Journal of Geography is the journal of the NCGE. Its main focus is geography education in the schools, but it also contains a few articles on learning and teaching geography in HE.

Journal of Geography in Higher Education (JGHE). This is the only international journal which focuses exclusively on geography in higher education. It "provides a forum for geographers and others, regardless of their specialisms, to present the results of educational research, and to advocate new ideas" (inside front cover). It is published three times a year. Abstracts of all the papers published in the Journal since it was founded are available on the GDN Web pages. Editors: Professor Hugh Matthews and Dr Ian Livingstone (University College Nene, Northampton, UK).

National Council for Geographical Education (NCGE) (http://www.ncge.org/index.html). Established in 1915, NCGE "works to enhance the status and quality of geography teaching and learning" (NCGE 1998). NCGE publishes the Journal of Geography, holds annual conferences, and "cooperates with other organizations that have similar goals" (NCGE 1998). The main focus is on geographic education at school level. Executive Director: Professor Ruth I. Shirey (Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA).

NCGIA Core Curriculum in GIScience (http://www.ncgia.ucsb.edu/giscc/). This network aims to create authoritative, on-line hypertext handbooks built from chapters or modules contributed by dozens of authors. Handbooks provide lecture note material for academic staff. Sponsored by the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA), led by Professor Karen Kemp (University of California at Santa Barbara, USA).

NCGIA GIS Core Curriculum for Technical Programs (http://www.ncgia.ucsb.edu/cctp/). Established to develop a wide range of GIS teaching resources for two-year (e.g. US community college) educational courses. Resources include lesson plans, course outlines, WWW tutorials, and laboratory exercises. Led by Professor Steve Palladino (University of California at Santa Barbara, USA) and funded by National Science Foundation.

UNIGIS (http://www.unigis.org/). This is an eleven-nation network of universities headquartered at Manchester Metropolitan University. UNIGIS's purpose is to facilitate the co-operative design and delivery of distance learning in GIS at postgraduate level.

Virtual Geography Department (VGD) (http://www.utexas.edu/depts/grg/virtdept/contents.html) is based at the University of Texas at Austin. The goals of the VGD are "to develop ways for geographers to share materials and use the World Wide Web" and "to offer high quality curriculum materials and classroom and laboratory modules that can be used across the Internet by geography students and faculty at any university in the world, and to promote collaborative research" (Virtual Geography Department 1998). Director: Professor Ken Foote (University of Texas at Austin).

 

Appendix 2   List of Abbreviations

AAG Association of American Geographers (USA)

ARGUS Activities and Readings on the Geography of the United States (USA)

CCGII Commission on College Geography II, Association of American Geographers (USA)

CTI Computers in Teaching Initiative (UK)

CTISS Computers in Teaching Initiative Support Service (UK)

CTIGGM Computers in Teaching Initiative Centre for Geography, Geology & Meteorology (UK)

CUTSD Committee for University Teaching and Staff Development (Australia)

DfEE Department for Education and Employment (UK)

GA Geography Association

GDN Geography Discipline Network (UK)

GESG Geography Education Specialty Group of AAG (USA)

HESG Higher Education Study Group of the RGS-IBG (UK)

IAG Institute of Australian Geographers (Australia)

ICT Information and Computer Technology, sometimes referred to as IT

IGU International Geographical Union

IGU-CGE International Geographical Union Commission on Geographical Education

INLT International Network for Learning and Teaching Geography in Higher Education

IRGEE International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education (international journal based in Australia)

ISLA Information System for Los Angeles

IT Information Technology, sometimes referred to as Information and Computer Technology

JGHE Journal of Geography in Higher Education (international journal based in UK)

NCGE National Council for Geographical Education (USA)

NCGIA National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (USA)

RGS-IBG Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (UK)

QAA Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (UK)

UNIGIS University Network for GIS education (UK)

VGD Virtual Geography Department (USA)

VFC Virtual Field Course project (UK)

WWW World Wide Web or simply Web


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