Geographical knowledge can be powerful and enabling for young people.
Teaching is Step 3 of the GeoCapabilities process.
However, as all teachers realise, knowledge is only acquired (or constructed) by the learner through good teaching. This means choosing strategies that engage the student, connect their current knowledge and experience to the topic, and allow them to make sense of new material in order to deepen or broaden their conceptual knowledge, understanding or geographical skills.
Margaret Roberts has argued that we should talk about powerful pedagogies as much as powerful knowledge (see Roberts, 2014) and in the GeoCapabilities project, this is recognised through the curriculum making models and the balance between subject content, child and teaching choices.
The teachers working on the project developed some innovative pedagogies so that the powerful knowledge explored in their ‘vignettes’ of migration geography could be transformed into classroom teaching. Teachers used a variety of innovative strategies, but a common feature was the use of a well chosen, rich and multi-layered source of data for students (or curriculum artefact) around which the teaching strategy was built.
One aspect of these pedagogies was that they supported ‘relational capabilities’.
This means that the teaching strategies help the student to relate their own experiences and viewpoints to the lives of others, through the disciplinary knowledge of geography.
Another way to put this is that the concepts of geography (such as place, space and interconnection) allow the student to think in new ways about their relationship to other people.
This was often achieved by engaging them in activities that question assumptions, challenge stereotypes, look behind statistical data and evoke feelings around fairness and empathy, for instance.
It was noticeable that the teachers’ innovative curriculum work tended to make the ‘cold’ data of maps and numbers, more real by using human stories, photographs and video clips.
These gave some voice to marginalised perspectives, encouraging a different view. Some of the teaching strategies were designed to encourage debate and dialogue, clarifying students’ own value positions and bringing in some moral reasoning around the unfairness of migration issues.
Review these examples from Belgium
The important thing was that the teachers were carefully connecting geographical knowledge with their teaching strategies. Some of these innovative pedagogies were shared and explained.
Consider the following questions:
- How did teachers encourage rather than avoid classroom discussion and debate about migration?
- In what ways dod they removing the abstraction of only dealing with data?
- How did they avoid / recognise stereotypes?
- How did they work with ICT?