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Geography teachers as researchers: creating a new opportunity for teacher research

Dr Elizabeth Rushton and Dr Cyrus Nayeri

Lecturer in Geography Education and Visiting Tutor on the Geography PGCE

11 January 2022

Less than two years into publishing Routes, a journal that gives undergraduate and sixth form geographers the chance to share their perspectives and research, we are delighted that the publication is being so appreciated that teachers wished to contribute to it. In January 2022, we have published a special issue of Routes, with our first collection of articles authored by teachers.

Access the journal here.

A central geographical concept that runs through many of these articles is that of place. Zoe Sayliss shares research which has used sport to analyse primary school children’s sense of place while Edward Jones explores the affordance of landscape assessment as a method of teaching the concept of place with A-level geographers. Ideas of place are also very much the focus of Emily Chandler’s work, which delves into the interaction between place, walking and emotions through 10 participants’ experience of the city of Paris.

Meanwhile, Charlotte Fulham investigates the growing prominence of the wellness industry and why a geographical understanding of wellness is needed, and Anna Pennington examines how the Australian East Coast Low storm put the spotlight on the vulnerabilities of coastal communities. Lastly, Alan Parkinson provides an insight into the work and contributions of the presidents of the Geographical Association and how the work of the GA continues to provide vital opportunities for the community to come together in support of the subject of geography.

In our work with teachers at the beginning of their careers, we are constantly reminded that a love of their chosen subject is at the core of their decision to become a teacher. However, the question of how to ensure that teachers can engage in continuing professional development (CPD) that is relevant and meaningful, is a perennial one. One vital aspect of CPD is providing teachers with the time and opportunity to engage with their subject specialism so that they deepen their understanding and are therefore able to share and model the joys of their subject with their pupils.

Having the opportunity to engage with geography through learning about the latest research as part of lecture series, and innovative pedagogical approaches through ‘TeachMeets’, are vital ways for those teaching geography in schools to extend their subject-specialist practice. However, we also note the importance of having a space where geography teachers can both produce as well as consume geographical ideas and research, where geography teachers can extend their identities as both geographers and teachers of geography.

Previously, Elizabeth noted how secondary school science teachers who engaged in subject-based research projects with their students found this to provide a way of (re)connecting with science themselves and enhanced their professional identity as teachers of science.

This collection of articles underlines the capacity of geography teachers to contribute to geographical research and we hope that these articles provide teachers with a starting point to consider how they might choose to further engage with their subject. We hugely value the role that geography teachers have in developing the future of the discipline through their teaching in schools. At the same time, we encourage those geography teachers who wish to do so to also see themselves as a genuine and contributing part of the academic geographical community, whose ideas and perspectives are vital to the growth of the discipline.

We hope that Routes provides one way to traverse the borderlands of geographies rooted in the everyday, in school and in academia so that the geographical voices of teachers and students can genuinely contribute to the flourishing of this subject. At a time of climate emergency and persistent social and racial inequalities, the need for the fullest range of geographical voices and perspectives is needed now, more than ever.

Read the articles in Routes for free here.

This article has been adapted from the editorial published in the Routes Teacher Special Issue, January 2022.

In this story

Elizabeth Rushton

Elizabeth Rushton

Former Lecturer in Geography Education

Cyrus Golding

Cyrus Golding

Visiting Tutor Geography PGCE

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