Journal of Geography in Higher Education - Volume 29 Number 3 2005

Real and Virtual Experiential Learning on the Mekong: Field Schools, e-Sims and Cultural Challenge

Philip Hirsch, University of Sydney, School of Geosciences, Australia
Kate Lloyd, Macquarie University, Department of Human Geography, Australia

ABSTRACT This paper describes two innovative and linked approaches to teaching and student learning in the environmental and development geography of the Mekong region, a region remote from students’ normal experiential options. The first approach is field-based learning through Field Schools carried out in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. The second approach is a structured role-playing web-based simulation exercise (e-Sim) on Mekong Basin environmental management challenges. This paper discusses the complementarities of these approaches and considers the degree to which these two experiential approaches to teaching and learning have contributed to key competences, namely cross-cultural communication and understanding, multi-disciplinary approaches to environment and development, and regional knowledge of Southeast Asia.

KEYWORDS Asia-Pacific geography, experiential learning, field school, development, environment, Mekong

Placing the Personal in Pedagogy: Engaged Pedagogy in ‘Feminist’ Geographical Teaching

Kath Browne, University of Brighton, School of the Environment, UK

ABSTRACT This paper attempts to unravel the complexities of including the personal in geographical teaching. Drawing on email responses from 10 academics and her reflective teaching diary, the author differentiates the ‘personal’ as experiential and ‘personal’ as private in these accounts of teaching practices, revealing the contingent (re)constitution of ‘geographical knowledge’. In recognizing the negotiation of our positionalities, interactions with individuals and class groups, and broader academic settings (i.e. geographical discipline, university contexts and broader educational trends) the unquestioning employment of ‘the personal’ is further problematized. The paper concludes by contending that rather than dismissing the personal in teaching contexts or reverting to (or even maintaining) traditional disempowering pedagogies, a more nuanced and contextualized pedagogical politics is necessary both within, and beyond, geographies.

KEYWORDS Pedagogical politics, power relations, personal, critical geographies

Geography, Citizenship and Volunteering: Some Uses of the Higher Education Active Community Fund in Geography

Richard Yarwood, University of Plymouth, School of Geography, UK

ABSTRACT Voluntary work with local communities has been advocated as beneficial for geography students, higher education institutions and the public. In England, the Higher Education Active Community Fund (HEACF) has recently been established by the Government to encourage staff and students in higher education to undertake voluntary work in local communities. This paper reports on the use of HEACF funding to develop voluntary work projects for geography students at the University of Plymouth. It examines the student experience of voluntary working and concludes that it helps students to develop as both geographers and active citizens in their local communities.

KEYWORDS Voluntarism, citizenship, geography with the community, service learning.

Transition and Transformation: The Influence of a Learning Package on Student Performance in Soils Geography Studies

Ana Vovk Korže, University of Maribor, Department of Geography, Slovenia

ABSTRACT Recent political and economic developments in Slovenia, especially its accession to the European Union in 2004, have led to a significant reappraisal of the geography curriculum in higher education, and particularly those elements dealing with the teaching of soils. Physical geography, and especially soils geography, has long been an important part of the geographical curriculum in Slovenian universities, and it is also regarded as its most demanding element. This paper describes a 10-year project that sought to make the learning of soils geography more accessible to geography undergraduates, principally those undergoing teacher training. The project has created a new, student-centred soils geography learning resource called the Pedo-Geographical Package (PGP). Users report that the package has increased learner knowledge recall, the quality of acquired knowledge and interest in soils geography. Improvements were also reported in learners’ skills in independent, creative and critical thinking and confidence, resulting in students no longer considering the subject so demanding. The package helped students acquire more soils geography knowledge, and to understand, use and explore this knowledge through their own research. The results of an evaluation survey reveal a statistically significant difference between PGP-using and non-PGP using groups.

KEYWORDS Physical geography, soils geography, Pedo-Geographical Package, teaching evaluation, Slovenia

Teaching Geographic Information Systems in a Problem-Based Learning Environment

Christine Drennon, Trinity University, Urban Studies Department, San Antonio, USA

ABSTRACT How, where and why GIS is taught has been debated heavily in the geography literature. This article is a contribution to that debate, because it offers a new perspective from which to teach GIS: problem-based learning. In a problem-based learning classroom, theoretical foundations and the real world of problems are understood as constitutive of one another, rather than theory being prioritised over the real world of experience. In this paper, the author describes an introductory-level GIS class in which GIS was taught with a problem-based learning pedagogy. The problem around which the class focused was a proposal to add a new school district in the San Antonio, Texas metropolitan region. This article describes the class, including the nature of the problem and the way GIS skills were sequentially taught and integrated into the analysis of that problem.

KEYWORDS Problem-based learning, GIS, urban fragmentation.

Self-assessment and Reflective Learning for First-year University Geography Students: A Simple Guide or Simply Misguided?

Graham Thompson, Alan Pilgrim A1, Kristy Oliver, Curtin University of Technology, Department of Social Sciences, Australia

ABSTRACT A self-assessment schedule has been developed for first-year geography students at Curtin University of Technology. Its purpose is to guide students towards independent learning by encouraging them to reflect more on ‘what’ and ‘how’ they learn. Results of the 2003 and 2004 trials showed that the self-assessment schedule had a positive impact on student learning and was at least partially effective in improving students' critical thinking skills. It helped students to plan and organize their thoughts, describe the geographical characteristics related to their fieldwork exercise and indicated that students were generally positive about becoming more independent and reflective learners.

KEYWORDS Self-assessment, reflective learning, report-writing guide, first-year students, critical thinking, independent learning

Case Study Research

Glynis Cousin, Higher Education Academy, York, UK

ABSTRACT Case study research aims to explore and depict a setting with a view to advancing understanding. This note explores the dimensions of case study research in higher education, with special reference to geographical fieldwork. It explores Stake's three categories of case study research: intrinsic, instrumental and collective. It provides guidelines concerning the limits and definitions of case study research, the provision of ‘thick descriptions’, the formulation of good research questions, data collection, analysis and the search for meaning in case study research findings. Case study research has the capacity to ‘sophisticate the beholding’ of the settings and activities that are scrutinized.

KEYWORDS Educational research, pedagogy, qualitative methods, thick description

The Geography Discipline Network would also like to thank Taylor & Francis Ltd for permission to reproduce abstracts from the Journal of Geography in Higher Education

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