Developing and Internationalising Higher Education Networks in Geography
MICK HEALEY, Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education
"It is becoming increasingly clear that dissemination is best achieved through networks of subject peers - since it is to such colleagues that academics most naturally relate on academic questions"In order to develop and disseminate good practice in learning and teaching more attention needs to be given to putting in place the means and structures for doing this. In this Editorial I wish to argue that developing and internationalising subject or discipline-based networks is an effective way of achieving this.
The argument falls into three parts. I begin by asserting that discipline-based networks are an effective form of educational development. Secondly, I suggest that 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 which has occurred has been project-based. There is a need 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. Thirdly, I argue that many of the educational networks which exist are insular and focus mainly, or exclusively, on what goes on in their own country. Much can be learnt by comparing and sharing practices and cooperating on joint projects. I shall expand on each of these points in turn.
The idea of a subject-based network for educational development is to build on this propensity for staff to value their discipline contacts. The argument is based on two assertions: first, that staff are more likely to accept, say, a method of teaching or learning which is new to them, if it can be shown to work for a colleague teaching the same subject; and, second, it is important not to separate pedagogic developments from the disciplinary contexts in which they are to be implemented.
Although the importance of national and state/provincial, subject-based higher education programmes varies between countries, many have initiatives which recognise the importance of disciplines. For example, in Australia, The Committee for University Teaching and Staff Development gives grants for discipline-based teaching initiatives and has established five discipline-based clearinghouses for the exchange of information about teaching and learning. In the United States, the American Association for Higher Education's project on 'Faculty Roles and Rewards' has sought to work with disciplinary organisations to identify reward systems, which give greater consideration to the scholarship of teaching and recognise the uniqueness of disciplines (Jenkins, 1996). An example of their application is given in the recommendations developed by the Association of American Geographers (AAG) (Abler et al., 1994).
The value of disciplines also appears to have been accepted, at least in part, in some of the more recent programmes funded by various government bodies in the UK, including the Computers in Teaching Initiative (CTI); the Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (TLTP); the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) funded Discipline Networks in Higher Education; and the Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning Programme (FDTL). Although the UK government has invested relatively large sums of money in discipline-based programmes, compared with many other countries (though not in comparison to the amount the UK government spends on research in universities), the initiatives to date have been largely uncoordinated, short-term programmes (the CTI initiative is an exception), and relatively few of the networks supported have managed to obtain continuation funding. What is required now is to build on this experience and institute a long term national programme of subject networks. Such networks could form effective permanent teaching communities, which could coordinate all aspects of learning and teaching the subject, including quality assessment and standards, the collation and dissemination of good practice, the use of technology, the development of key skills, and involvement in pedagogic research within the discipline.
At the time of writing (early July 1998) the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) are developing plans for the major funding of subject networks. In the UK some subjects, such as geography, already have well developed networks which could be built on and integrated; other subjects would need to develop networks from scratch. The challenge for all subjects will be to develop structures and mechanisms whereby the networks can move from project funding to self-sustaining permanent networks. For this to happen the subject professional associations, such as the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG), will need to play a pivotal role.
Subject networks in geography are, perhaps, most highly developed in the UK, where geography is one of the leading disciplines in the development and dissemination of good practice in learning and teaching. Only one other discipline in the UK, chemistry, has received funding under each of the CTI, TLTP, Discipline Networks in Higher Education, and FDTL national programmes; and geography is the only discipline network to win a contract under the DfEE Key Skills in Higher Education programme. Geographers in the UK have been involved in a series of groups, initiatives and consortia concerned with teaching and learning in higher education over more than 25 years and in addition to the ones mentioned above include the Higher Education Study Group of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG) and the JGHE. Table 1 attempts to distill some of the lessons learnt from the varied experience of running national networks to provide a checklist of points to consider in establishing and developing a national higher education network in geography, although clearly not all the points are relevant to all such networks, as their functions and opportunities for funding differ. An earlier version of this list (Healey, 1998) has already been found useful by others, both in planning the development of a geography network (Hay, 1998) and in reviewing the experience of developing a geography network (Matthews, forthcoming).
Most educational networks in geography in higher education do not yet match up to the kind of networks associated with research (Gibbs, 1998). For example, peer review is at the heart of most research networks, but formal schemes for the peer review of teaching in geography are uncommon. Similarly, relatively few geographers undertake research into their teaching and publish their findings. Developing the scholarship of teaching and learning is a key challenge for geography subject networks (Healey, 1998), but is unlikely to grow to the extent of the scholarship of research "until there are strong institutional and departmental policies and national requirements for rewarding and promoting excellent teaching and teachers" (Jenkins, 1997, p.13).
The issue of internationalising the network has been tackled in different ways by different subject networks. As an international journal, writing for an international audience is a key issue for JGHE, particularly as two-thirds of its sales are outside the UK (Garcia-Ramon & Monk, 1997). The Editorial Guidelines ask authors "to generalise course- and institution-specific experience wherever possible; keep local terms and details to a minimum; and define or explain essential 'local' jargon and acronyms". With two-thirds of the authors coming from the UK, trying to encourage more papers from outside the UK is another important issue (Shepherd & Healey, 1994). This led in the mid-1990s to the appointment of Commissioning Editors for North America and for Australasia and for JGHE promotions to take place at the Annual Conferences of the AAG, the IAG, and the New Zealand Geographical Society. Continuing efforts at internationalising JGHE are needed to reduce the disparities between the national distributions of the readers and contributors to the journal.
Visits by geographers active in national educational networks to other countries to give conference papers, run workshops and participate in the activities of other national networks is an important way of sharing experiences. The leaders of the Virtual Geography Department, GeographyCal and the Geography Discipline Network (GDN) projects, for example, have followed this route (Foote, 1998; Gravestock & Healey, 1998; Healey et al., 1998). More direct international co-operation has been achieved by the Erasmus Intensive Course, which provides courses in gender and geography for advanced and graduate students working in a number of European institutions (Garcia-Ramon & Monk, 1997). Perhaps the best example to date of international cooperation in the development of the geography curriculum is the National Centre for Geographic Information and Analysis Core Curriculum project in which 35 GIS educators in the US, Canada and the UK developed a comprehensive set of lecture notes for teaching beginning GIS professionals (Kemp & Goodchild, 1991). An updated web-based version of this course is in preparation, which includes 76 lecture topics and 19 section editors from five different countries (http://ncgia.ncgia.ucsb.edu:80/giscc).
Such attempts at internationalisation, although significant and growing in importance, are still the exception. Most geography higher education networks continue to be concerned primarily, and in some cases almost exclusively, with what is going on within their own countries. There is a need for more determined efforts by all those involved with the various networks to expand the dialogue between the various national networks. In an attempt to kick start this process an international symposium on 'Learning and Teaching Geography in Higher Education' is being held at the start of the AAG Annual Conference in March 1999 in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the main theme will be: 'how do we make our activities more effectively international?'. The symposium is being sponsored by various professional bodies including the AAG, IAG and RGS-IBG. Among the questions which this symposium needs to address are:
In conclusion, geographers have a good record for developing effective new ideas in teaching and learning in higher education. To expand these developments and, perhaps even more importantly, to disseminate them to the rest of the geographic community, we need to establish and develop permanent educational networks which will not only facilitate this occurring within countries, but also encourage the sharing of good practices and cooperation on joint projects internationally.
Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education
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Table 1 Checklist of points to consider in establishing and developing a national higher education network in geography
|1.||Make as many contacts as possible with like-minded enthusiasts in the discipline in your state/province/ nation; build a core group as soon as possible and involve them in the establishment and organisation of the network's activities|
|2.||Agree the main objectives for your network, develop an action plan with timescales and a clear division of responsibilities for their achievement; review and, where appropriate, revise your objectives and plans regularly|
|3.||Start small, but think big; organising workshops and small conferences need not involve many resources|
|4.||Seek wide support for your network by 'networking the networks'; obtain legitimacy and status by working with your subject's learned society or professional association and other key groups; make your network invaluable by, for example, organising workshops and conferences to discuss the subjects' response to government higher education initiatives|
|5.||Integrate in the programmes of activities curriculum and pedagogic issues with topical issues of concern to the future of the subject|
|6.||Take every opportunity to involve academics in the discipline in the network; identify and work through key individuals in university and college departments|
|7.||Ensure that events and activities receive wide publicity and reports are written up and distributed widely; produce a newsletter; establish a subject network WWW site; and consider establishing a mailbase discussion list|
|8.||Prepare guides to good practices in learning, teaching and assessment, written in an accessible and practical style, and containing plenty of case studies illustrating their implementation|
|9.||Produce learning and teaching materials which can be adapted and used flexibly by lecturers and faculty|
|10.||Publish subject based pedagogic research, conference proceedings, and bibliographies of discipline-specific educational literature; send articles to JGHE for consideration for publication|
|11.||Ensure a high standard of scholarship in the way you write about and discuss your teaching; strive to raise the standard of other contributions|
|12.||Seek funding to develop, identify and disseminate good practice in learning and teaching|
|13.||Establish links with other educational networks in closely related subjects and with geography networks in other countries; involve key people from related subjects and other countries in your activities|
|14.||Contribute to generic educational conferences and workshops|
|15.||Involve educational developers, particularly those with a background in your discipline, in the planning and implementation of your activities, including bringing them in to participate in events, work on projects, facilitate workshops, and to advise on and evaluate the development of the network|
|16.||Encourage and prepare new members to take over the running of the network|
Tales of the City: understanding urban complexity through the medium of concept mapping
JOHN R. GOLD & JON COAFFEE, Oxford Brookes University, UK
In this paper, the use made of concept mapping in teaching complex notions in an urban geography course is described, outlining and evaluating three experimental exercises. The paper discusses the nature and characteristics of concept mapping, the course context, the three exercises concerned, and student responses through evaluations. The conclusion summarises the findings of this paper and emphasises the continuing potential of the technique.
Concept mapping, urban geography.
Interactive Ethics: developing understanding of the social relations of research
ROBIN KEARNS, RICHARD LE HERON & ANNA ROMANIUK, The University of Auckland, New Zealand
Increasingly, geographers are considering the fundamentally relational nature of ethics. This consideration is involving a developing concern with process (e.g. the social relations of research projects) as well as procedures (e.g. administrative guidelines). In this paper, a development in the teaching of ethics is reported from a third-year undergraduate research design and methods course which develops the view that research involves a complex web of relationships. Ethically vexing anecdotes were elicited from practising geographers and a computer-based tutorial package designed that involves students interacting with this material. However, advocacy of this online approach to teaching is not without ambivalence. It is cautioned that being interactive with computers, in the absence of other teaching formats, might curtail students' interaction with each other in their development of moral imaginations.
Ethics, New Zealand, social relations, research design, computer-based learning, tutorials.
The Geography of Children: some ethical and methodological considerations for project and dissertation work
HUGH MATTHEWS, MELANIE LIMB & MARK TAYLOR, Nene University College Northampton, UK
With the 'cultural turn' in geography children have been positioned on the geographical agenda. There is an evident and growing interest amongst undergraduates in the geography of children as a topic for project work and dissertation study. This seems an appropriate time to consider a series of related ethical and methodological issues which are important when working with children. The paper is organised into four parts. First, discussion focuses on the background which has given rise to a growing expectation that social (geographical) investigation should be with children rather than on or for children. These ideas are presented in order to encourage students and their supervisors to think about their work from the perspective of children. Second, a set of ethical issues to do with working with children are discussed. Third, examples of good methodological practice when working with children are presented. Lastly, a range of provocative issues to do with geographers studying children are examined. Throughout the paper, the emphasis is upon how recent changes in human (cultural) geography inform the way in which we get (or expect) students to work.
Geography of children, ethics, project work, dissertations, cultural turn.
Maximising the Benefits from Work-based Learning: the effectiveness of environmental audits
GORDON CLARK, Lancaster University, UK
JOHN WHITELEGG, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
This paper reviews the reasons for incorporating work-based learning (WBL) into higher education degrees and the barriers to achieving this despite the many advocates of WBL. Five key dimensions of WBL are noted and examples of WBL in departments of geography across the UK are located on these five dimensions. The paper then describes the client-based environmental audits which are run as part of an MSc degree at Lancaster University. The advantages and disadvantages of this type of WBL are enumerated and Lancaster's system of environmental audits is evaluated. The paper concludes with recommendations based on the five dimensions and on the authors' experience as to the features of WBL which will maximise its beneficial effects in geography degrees and justify the efforts needed for its successful use.
Work-based learning, geography, environmental education, experiential learning, work experience, group project.
Re-situating Regional Geography in an Undergraduate Curriculum: an example from a new university
GREG HALSETH & GAIL FONDAHL, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, Canada
Regional geography courses have declined in status and number at many North American universities. Yet it is regional courses which students with limited geographical education at the high school level may identify as typical geography, and thus regional courses may play a significant role in recruitment of geography majors. Regional courses on the students' country or state/province offer an excellent opportunity to showcase how geographic perspectives can enrich our understanding of the familiar, both in terms of place and discipline. This paper discusses the pivotal role a regional geography course has been given in a new university's geography curriculum, and the innovative structuring of the course so as to avoid some of the deficiencies of common instructional patterns which may deter some students from pursuing further geographic education.
Regional geography, curriculum development, recruitment.
The Technoliteracy Challenge: teaching globalisation using the Internet
GEARÓID Ó TUATHAIL, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA
DEREK MCCORMACK, University of Bristol, UK
Under fiscal pressure and grappling with technological transformations, more and more universities are attempting to re-invent themselves as technologically facilitated educational institutions, fast and flexible enough for networking times. The adoption of new instructional technologies poses challenges to universities and education as we know it. This paper considers the educational challenges and opportunities offered by sociotechnical networks such as the Internet. Using the case of a second-year undergraduate course on globalisation, it outlines some practical educational possibilities for using the Internet that might facilitate, instead of compromise, critical thinking. It suggests that geography educators need to begin developing a critical technoliteracy that will respond to our informationally mediated world, a literacy not merely of technical competence but one which contextualises the Internet within a political economy of globalisation and continuously deconstructs, destablises and displaces its presentation as a spectacle and cyber-utopia.
Technoliteracy, Internet, globalization, critical thinking, network.
Making a Difference: a geographer's view from the top-an interview with Fay Gale
KAY ANDERSON, University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia
This interview was conducted in December 1997 when Professor Fay Gale retired, having completed a highly successful career as a geography academic and university administrator in Australia, most recently as Vice-Chancellor at the University of Western Australia. The interview explores her professional and personal development as well as her views of research, teaching, geography, the problems and prospects for women in academia and the state of higher education in Australia.
Research, teaching, women in academia, university administration.
Evaluating IT-Based Resources for Supporting Learning and Teaching in Geography: some case studies
JOHN CASTLEFORD & GEOFF ROBINSON, University of Leicester, UK
The use of information and communication technology (ICT) to support and reinforce learning and teaching in geography at the UK university level has gradually increased over the past two decades. Experimentation with educational technology has long tended to be a marginal activity but recent developments have seen educational ICT become more mainstream following the availability of extensive project funding under the Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (TLTP). Case studies are presented that show the current position at a number of universities and colleges.
Educational technology, Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (TLTP), Computer Teaching Initiative (CTI), World Wide Web, computers.
A Computer-based Formative Assessment Strategy for a Basic Statistics Module in Geography
DAN CHARMAN & ANDY ELMES, University of Plymouth, UK
This paper describes the context and rationale for the introduction of computer-based assessment (CBA) on a first-year module in geographical data analysis, and evaluates student opinion and performance in response to this. Questionnaires showed that students were generally positive about CBA, and overall module evaluations improved. Student interest in the subject-matter also increased. Comparison of summative examination performance before and after the introducation of CBA showed an increase in average marks, with particular improvement shown in the range of marks 35-50 per cent. These results show that CBA can be effective in delivering improved student performance as well as being popular with students.
Computer-based assessment (CBA), objective testing, formative assessment, student performance, student evaluation.
Integration and Evaluation of CAL Courseware and Automated Assessment in the Delivery of a Geography Module
RAYMOND J. TOWSE & PETER GARSIDE, Kingston University, UK
This paper discusses the software and logistical issues and proposed solutions in the move to a pilot scheme for delivery of flexible and distance-based learning using a suite of CAL modules and integral formative and summative tests delivered by OuestionMark software. The issues are set within a holistic framework of managing the learning experience in a semester-long optional module in geography, open to a mixed group of students with representation from varied degree courses. Initial evaluative responses to the use of a newly developed CAL module, as well as this mode of learning, are briefly assessed.
CAL, automated assessment, learning, management, evaluation, mixed groups.
Using CAL and the Web for First-year Geography Methods Teaching
TOM BROWNE & DON FUNNELL, University of Sussex, UK
As part of a new course structure, a four-week course had to be devised in which key spatial skills would be delivered to a large cohort of first-year undergraduate geography students. The use of PC-based computer aided learning (CAL) material and the World Wide Web (Web) have already gained some credibility in undergraduate courses in the UK and so the authors took the opportunity to explore their usefulness in a Sussex context. The development of the course received some internal funding and a consequent obligation was formally to evaluate its delivery. This paper outlines the rationale behind the course and examines the results of its delivery in the context of using technology to enhance learning.
Computer aided learning, World Wide Web, teaching and learning.
Communication and Information Technology in the Skills Curriculum: a case study of an existing course and its relevance to a post-Dearing era
SUE BURKILL, University College of St Mark and St John, Plymouth, UK
As a pragmatic contribution to discussion about how skills should be integrated into the curriculum in the post-Dearing era, this paper draws on experience of a course which has been running for two years alongside the modular degree at the University College of St Mark and St John. It considers how computer-assisted learning (CAL) can be integrated into a skills curriculum for undergraduates. It argues that CAL can serve the dual purpose of providing a flexible approach to developing a range of skills and supporting the development of competence in information technology. The judicious selection of appropriate CAL materials from a range of sources, carefully programmed into the student experience, is shown to be an appropriate learning strategy for a skills curriculum. Finally, it argues that without the development of supportive IT strategies, skills-oriented courses are threatened by resource constraints.
Dearing Report, key skills, computer-assisted learning.
IT Skills Emplacement: learning environment and assessment
JOHN GRATTAN, The University of Wales Aberystwyth, UK
This paper describes attempts to devise effective strategies by which to develop students' communication and information technology (C&lT) skills. The success, or otherwise, of three modules which are supported by learning material mounted on the Internet were compared. It is shown that basic C&IT skills do not necessarily require many hours of practical demonstration. It is also shown that while lecturing staff may wish to offer a reward to students undertaking a new task by weighting an assessment heavily, students may perceive such weighting as a risk and opt therefore not to demonstrate their C&IT skills. In contrast, it is shown that where minimal instruction has been given, but where the assessment weighting is low, and an experiential learning environment has been created, students were keen to 'have a go'.
Experiential learning, Internet, Web, assessment weighting.
Two Examples of the Use of 'Electronic Posters'
W. BRIAN WHALLEY & BRICE R. REA, The Queen's University of Belfast, UK
This paper outlines the implementation, production and assessment of electronic posters in two undergraduate classes. In one case the material was prepared in PowerPoint, the other as a World Wide Web presentation using HTML. The advantages of each are described, together with the marking schemes and some comments about implementation. Students worked in small groups but were given individual marks. Overall, the use of electronic media was liked by the students and is seen as a useful way of combining a variety of skills with academic material.
Assessment, electronic media, HTML, peer review, posters, presentation, World Wide Web.
A Regional Geography Class in a Distributed Learning Environment
JEREMY CRAMPTON, George Mason University, Fairfax, USA
This paper describes the rationale and structure of an innovative distributed learning environment in geography. In response to declining resources available to local academic units or departments and low availability of instructors, a regional geography class on Africa was delivered in a 'distributed' manner. Three Northern Virginia universities within a 50-mile radius offered the class, which was taught by one professor, visiting each location on a rotating basis every 3 weeks. All other material was delivered via the Web. Conclusions are made about the pedagogical role of distributed learning.
Distributed learning, World Wide Web, Africa.
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