Teaching Workshop 2018

Report on Workshop: Educating under- and post-graduate geographers for/about/using the geographies of children and youth

GCYFRG Workshop 10th January 2018

Thinking, connecting, and reflecting

Bring a group of Geographers and Educationalists together to talk about pedagogy on a chilly Wednesday morning in early January, and one might not expect rousing enthusiasm. And yet, the energies and ideas that coalesced at this teaching workshop on 10th January surpassed possibly even organiser John McKendrick’s expectations! This RGS-IBG sponsored workshop welcomed academic (teaching) staff, early career researchers and postgraduates – both within the field and beyond – to a day-long event encompassing various presentations, discussions, Q&A; and, happily, a field trip.

John (Glasgow Caledonian University) welcomed the group with a round of Bingo that played to our eclectic interests (and eccentricities!), neatly foregrounding the point that we carry these differences through our teaching practice. Addressing the teaching of children and youth geographies in the UK and Ireland specifically, John discussed recent statistical analyses that presents geographies of children and youth as increasingly ‘on the map’ in HE institutions. Once a niche sub-discipline, John stressed that growing interdisciplinary visibility warrants in depth and nuanced attention to both teaching and learning and assessment at HE level.

With this in mind, Joe Hall (Brighton University) then introduced us to a design model for a children’s geographies module. Several innovations were noted, not least the move from standard lecture formats towards role-play to motivate questioning and discussion between undergraduates and lecturers (e.g. what makes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ethics in research with children and youth?).

Sympathetic to the demands and strictures of HE timetabling, Matt Finn (University of Exeter) next asked us to think about opportunities for ‘mainstreaming’ specific children’s geographies sessions within undergraduate Geography modules more broadly; an approach that might arguably lend itself to a more inclusive HE curriculum. Sophie Hadfield-Hill echoed this sentiment where she explained the efforts of colleagues at University of Birmingham to embed non/more-than-representational theory and methodologies throughout their teaching of children and youth geographies.

The ensuing ‘breakout’ session proved a productive time for reflection, as we scurried to various corners of the room to share and conceive of novel teaching approaches that might be usefully deployed by our colleagues. Discussions around the use of TV and film, picture books and children’s literature to elucidate key concepts proved fascinating. Playing with mediums for/of (re)presentation was a popular discussion point, too. Colleagues suggested that students might make use of more visual techniques and strategies to explore and critique stereotypes of youth and tropes of childhood. Indeed, with the increasing trend from formal to horizontal assessments, and with focus on student-centred learning, creative approaches such as these yield much scope.

Tara Woodyer’s presentation was an apt and insightful follow up, as she explained the creative (re)thinking of the use of student blogs in teaching and assessment of children’s geographies at the University of Portsmouth. Contemporary job markets demand much of students, explained Tara, not least in terms of digital literacy. Experimenting with different modes of assessment and approaches to communication, this innovative model not only foregrounds student-centred learning, but also an interactive and motivated approach to knowledge (co)-production, exchange, and shaping of ideas. Check out the following examples of students’ blogging:




Relational approaches to teaching primary Geography with the UK and Ireland were the focus for both Susan Pike (Dublin City University), and Helen Clarke and Sharon Witt (University of Winchester). Following a ‘Common Worlds’ approach that emphasises enchantment, playfulness and paying attention with the world, both presentations affirmed the centrality of practical wisdoms, positive enquiry, and hopeful geographies. Follow @Attention2Place to find out more about Helen and Sharon’s work, and discover the wealth of insight offered by post human perspectives on teaching and learning about childhood.

Lunch was followed up by a comparative take on supervising children’s geographies dissertations, with Sarah Mills (Loughborough University) and Sophie Hadfield-Hill (University of Birmingham). The opportunities and (ethical) challenges posed by dissertation topics created much debate: How might we manage the expectations and experiences of undergraduate researchers? And how can we navigate stringent ethical clearance and protocols to best support our students and their research participants? Sarah and Sophie suggested differently nuanced ways to approach these issues, and, given the wealth of excellent undergraduate dissertation subjects produced to date, foregrounded the significance of sustained research at undergraduate level in carrying the sub-discipline forwards.

To close a day of much discussion, debate and reflection, it was apt that we went for a walk. Or, more specifically, a fieldtrip to Hyde Park. Guided by John’s directions and prompts – a model of active learning – we journeyed in pairs and small groups, chatting, thinking, listening, and observing as we went, contemplating the park and city more broadly as a springboard for questioning. We debated what constitutes ‘children’s spaces’, considered factors that shape children’s use of space (limited or otherwise), and were encouraged to interrogate ways in which children’s lives are shaped by their environments. Arriving back in time for tea (it should be noted that no-one was lost en-route!), it was agreed that today may be a first of many such opportunities to come: to make time and space for collaboration with colleagues beyond our own departments; to enliven, and continue to move the teaching of children and youth geographies forwards.

By Amy Mulvenna and Rachel Searcey

Amy Mulvenna (SEED, University of Manchester) & Rachel Searcey (Human Geography, Loughborough University), Postgraduate Representatives of GCYFRG

Educating under- and post-graduate geographers for/about/using the geographies of children and youth

Date: Wednesday 10th January, 1000-1600

Venue: Lowther Room, RGS-IBG, Kensington Gore, London

Is it for me?
This GCYFRG workshop is for anyone who is interested in using research on the geographies of children and youth in their teaching.

We will be exploring issues such as:

  1. How to use doctoral research in undergraduate teaching?
  2. Should we be delivering modules on the geographies of children and youth? And if so, what makes for a good module?
  3. What practical exercises work well in class?
  4. What works well in fieldwork?
  5. How can we embed the geographies of children and youth in more general geographical teaching?

In short, this workshop is for you whether you are a postgraduate student, early career researcher/lecturer, or an established academic!

How much does it cost to register?
We are charging a nominal fee of £20 (£10 for postgraduate students / unwaged) to cover costs, which includes lunch and refreshments. Those in receipt of a travel bursary (see details below) will not need to pay the registration fee.

Is there any funding available?
We are particularly keen to involve early career researchers and, with the support of RGS-IBG, are able to offer a limited number of bursaries of £50 towards travel costs. These will be allocated to postgraduates, those who are unwaged or on fixed term contracts on a first come, first served basis. If you are unsure of your eligibility, please contact Helena Pimlott-Wilson (H.Pimlott-Wilson@lboro.ac.uk)

If you would like to apply for the bursary, please provide the following information when returning your booking form: (i) Confirmation that you are either a postgraduate student, unwaged or on a fixed term contract (ii) Estimate of how much it will cost you to participate; and (iii) Estimate of how much your funder/institution will be able to contribute toward your costs.

Can I make an active contribution?
As a workshop, the focus of the day will be on doing and discussing – everyone will be active on the day! Although the day will be framed by presentations, it is first and foremost a workshop where we can share good practice and discuss key issues. We are particularly keen for contributions, which:

  • Demonstrate class-based exercises with students;
  • Discuss the transfer of doctoral research into geographical learning activities;
  • Consider the design of full- or part- modules in children’s geographies
  • Showcase field trails and other field-based activities

In terms of presentations, we also invite contributions, which explore the extent to which, and ways in which, undergraduate geography students:

  • Engage with the lives of children and youth through their studies (about children and youth);
  • Apply their geographical learning to improve the lives of children and youth (for children and youth); and
  • Utilise understanding of the lives of children and youth to enhance their geographical understanding (using children and youth).

The schedule will not be finalised until early November, so please get in touch if you have something to offer!

Confirmed speakers include:
John McKendrick (Glasgow Caledonian University)
Sarah Mills (University of Loughborough)
Susan Pike (Dublin City University)
Sharon Witt (University of Winchester)
Tara Woodyer (University of Portsmouth)

Something to offer – are you a prospective contributor?
Please contact John to discuss. jmke@gcu.ac.uk or johnhmckendrick if you would prefer a Skype call.