GeoCapabilities 3 Case Study Teaching

Teaching Migration

Teachers reflected on their lesson plans and planning approaches, considering the variability of national and school contexts. They used a mix of pedagogical principles, some of them migration-specific but mostly universal and applicable to all geographical PDK (not just migration as a topic), though particularly more human-oriented geography.

classroom picture

Teachers often grounded their lessons in students’ prior knowledge and experience. They often identified and addressed misconceptions related to the basic geographical (migration) concepts. For example, some teachers used concept mapping to developing conceptual understanding and insight into the complexity of migration processes.

Orniston School teaching resource

Most lessons taught were student-centred, stressing the need for higher levels of students’ engagement. This was done using both individual and group teaching and learning activities, particularly dialogic teaching addressing questions generated by both teacher and students e.g., a rotating debate technique. Such techniques supported students’ understanding, reflecting on attitudes and values, as well as their discussion skills. The higher engagement of students was identified as the critical pedagogical principle for the successful teaching (and learning) of migration. This was also identified as key to the social justice dimension.

Teachers tried to bridge relevant theories and real life in their lessons. Specifically, by focussing on the concrete life stories of real migrants. Teachers from countries, regions or schools with higher migrant background used students’ personal and family experience with migration. In terms of the knowledge-values interface a more empathetic stance of students toward migrants (and more sensitivity to how they are represented) was noted as an outcome of their curriculum intervention by some teachers.

See the Wilsthorp School example


Some teachers used the mediated life stories of migrants – employing storytelling, role-playing, or drama-use to enable students to perceive specific situations from the point of view of the migrant. Although this approach seems efficient in empathy development (part of the social justice dimension), some teachers perceived constraints to the potential of these techniques (working with mediated experience) for communicating geographical concepts. Nonetheless, investigating migrants’ life stories combined well with decision making exercises leading students to feel like a migrant in a given situation.

teaching picture

Considering the need to address misconceptions and build a more empathetic stance, teachers aimed their lesson to students’ use of reliable sources and data, so they could think critically about the new information. In some lessons, reliable data was used to challenge students’ negative views, and perspectives of migrants and migration previously gathered from elsewhere (incl. media and family).

Most of the principles and techniques used were perceived by teachers as innovative or used in an innovative way in the given context. The planning process led teachers to think critically, plan in an innovative way and encourage some to move away from the textbook, or other ‘official’ curriculum sources.

Overall, all teachers valued the GeoCapabilities approach for their professional development with a positive impact on their learners’ knowledge and attitudes.

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