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GeoCapabilities: Social justice in classrooms

This presentation defines and explores aspects of Social Justice in the context of the GeoCapabilities project and a capabilities approach for teaching. The presentation includes The role of teachers The role of pedagogy The role of students It is part of the Web site for the GeoCapabilities 3 project

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Download to read offline
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Web site reflects the views only of the authors,
and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
http://www.geocapabilities.org
GeoCapabilities 3
Socially Just classrooms
What are they?
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Web site reflects the views only of the authors,
and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
http://www.geocapabilities.org
GeoCapabilities 3
In this presentation
we consider
:
The role of
teachers
The role of
pedagogy
The role of
students
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Web site reflects the views only of the authors,
and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
http://www.geocapabilities.org
GeoCapabilities 3 Who do we teach?
Students’ experiences
https://www.geocapabilities.org/training-materials/module-2-
curriculum-making-by-teachers/getting-started/
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Web site reflects the views only of the authors,
and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
http://www.geocapabilities.org
GeoCapabilities 3
For how can we expect social mobility
for disadvantaged students when real
life examples seem so far out of
reach? The very real truth is that for
the majority of students, their postcode
still determines their likelihood of
success in life. We have a very real
problem. We need to tackle the
underlying problems that cause the
numbers of BAME teachers and
leaders to be so low so that we can
provide the role models that these
students need. A diverse teacher
workforce benefits all students not just
those from a BAME background.
(Johsh Isles, Assistant head teacher,
UK)
https://www.istockphoto.com/en/vector/migration-gm165036309-
985485
Teachers and teaching
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Web site reflects the views only of the authors,
and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
http://www.geocapabilities.org
GeoCapabilities 3
Geographies Pedagogy
Geography and Pedagogy
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Web site reflects the views only of the authors,
and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
http://www.geocapabilities.org
GeoCapabilities 3
Adicji, C. N. (2009) The Danger of a Single Story. A TED Talk.
Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en
Accessed July 3, 2021.
Arshad, R. (2021) A Diverse Teaching Profession Benefits All Pupils. Available at:
https://blogs.gov.scot/education/2021/03/19/a-diverse-teaching-profession-benefits-all-pupils/
Accessed 5 June 2021.
Biddulph, M. Béneker, T., Mitchell, D., Leiningar_Frézal, C., Zwartjes, L. and Donert, K. Teaching powerful geographical
knowledge – a matter of social justice: initial findings from the GeoCapabilities 3 project. International Journal of
Geographical and Environmental Education, 29(3): 260-274.
Donlevy, V., Meierkord , Anja, and Rajania(, Aaron (2016) ‘Study on the Diversity within the Teaching Profession with
Particular Focus on Migrant and/or Minority Background: Annexes to the Final Report to DG Education and Culture of the
European Commission. Brussels: European Commission
Hammond, L. (2020) An investigation into children's geographies and their value to geography education in schools.
(Doctorial dissertation). University College London.
Harvey, D. (1973) Social Justice in the City. University of Georgia Press.
Hopkins, P. (2020) Social Geography III: Committing to Social Justice, Progress in Human Geography, 45(2): pp382-293.
Isles, J. (n.d) What its like to be a black teacher in the UK. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/teacher-
support/what-its-like-to-be-a-black-teacher-in-the-uk-today/zhfxdp3 Accessed 6 June 2021.
Roberts, M. (2014) Powerful Knowledge and School Geography. The Curriculum Journal, 25(2): 187-209
Smith, D.M. (2000) Social Justice Revisited, Environment and Planning A, 32, pp 1149-1162.
Thomson, P. () Schooling the Rustbelt Kids: making the difference in changing times. Routledge: Oxford.
References

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GeoCapabilities: Social justice in classrooms

  • 1. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Web site reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. http://www.geocapabilities.org GeoCapabilities 3 Socially Just classrooms What are they?
  • 2. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Web site reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. http://www.geocapabilities.org GeoCapabilities 3 In this presentation we consider : The role of teachers The role of pedagogy The role of students
  • 3. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Web site reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. http://www.geocapabilities.org GeoCapabilities 3 Who do we teach? Students’ experiences https://www.geocapabilities.org/training-materials/module-2- curriculum-making-by-teachers/getting-started/
  • 4. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Web site reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. http://www.geocapabilities.org GeoCapabilities 3 For how can we expect social mobility for disadvantaged students when real life examples seem so far out of reach? The very real truth is that for the majority of students, their postcode still determines their likelihood of success in life. We have a very real problem. We need to tackle the underlying problems that cause the numbers of BAME teachers and leaders to be so low so that we can provide the role models that these students need. A diverse teacher workforce benefits all students not just those from a BAME background. (Johsh Isles, Assistant head teacher, UK) https://www.istockphoto.com/en/vector/migration-gm165036309- 985485 Teachers and teaching
  • 5. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Web site reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. http://www.geocapabilities.org GeoCapabilities 3 Geographies Pedagogy Geography and Pedagogy
  • 6. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Web site reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. http://www.geocapabilities.org GeoCapabilities 3 Adicji, C. N. (2009) The Danger of a Single Story. A TED Talk. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en Accessed July 3, 2021. Arshad, R. (2021) A Diverse Teaching Profession Benefits All Pupils. Available at: https://blogs.gov.scot/education/2021/03/19/a-diverse-teaching-profession-benefits-all-pupils/ Accessed 5 June 2021. Biddulph, M. Béneker, T., Mitchell, D., Leiningar_Frézal, C., Zwartjes, L. and Donert, K. Teaching powerful geographical knowledge – a matter of social justice: initial findings from the GeoCapabilities 3 project. International Journal of Geographical and Environmental Education, 29(3): 260-274. Donlevy, V., Meierkord , Anja, and Rajania(, Aaron (2016) ‘Study on the Diversity within the Teaching Profession with Particular Focus on Migrant and/or Minority Background: Annexes to the Final Report to DG Education and Culture of the European Commission. Brussels: European Commission Hammond, L. (2020) An investigation into children's geographies and their value to geography education in schools. (Doctorial dissertation). University College London. Harvey, D. (1973) Social Justice in the City. University of Georgia Press. Hopkins, P. (2020) Social Geography III: Committing to Social Justice, Progress in Human Geography, 45(2): pp382-293. Isles, J. (n.d) What its like to be a black teacher in the UK. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/teacher- support/what-its-like-to-be-a-black-teacher-in-the-uk-today/zhfxdp3 Accessed 6 June 2021. Roberts, M. (2014) Powerful Knowledge and School Geography. The Curriculum Journal, 25(2): 187-209 Smith, D.M. (2000) Social Justice Revisited, Environment and Planning A, 32, pp 1149-1162. Thomson, P. () Schooling the Rustbelt Kids: making the difference in changing times. Routledge: Oxford. References

Editor's Notes

  1. In this presentation we consider what a socially just geography classroom might look like and consider the kind of pedagogies that enable enable students to learn a more socially just geography. The presentation is framed by the curriculum making diagram because the concept of curriculum making provides us with a useful analytic structure to consider the role of teachers, students and pedagogy, through the lens of social justice
  2. .In GeoCapabilities 2, Curriculum making is a heuristic that communicates to teachers the nature of the ‘professional ‘balancing act’ they need to maintain between the needs of their students, their pedagogic decisions and the geography they want their students to learn. Whilst often ‘a curriculum’ is conceived of as a document, generally authorise by a central government or others detached from the experiences of schools , the day-to-day reality is that , despite any government prescription, the curriculum as experienced by students must still be ‘made’ by teachers. The diagram, captures the fact that an important role of teachers is to take their specialist subject knowledge and reshape it and represent it in ways that make it accessible to their students – they in fact ‘recontexualise’ the subject for their students in order to ensure that all are able to access and understand the key concepts and skills that define the subject ‘geography’. GeoCapabilities 2 is very clear that curriculum making is not: Curriculum design. Curriculum development Or curriculum planning It is also not the same as lesson planning. Curriculum making focuses on longer term educational goals and places teachers ‘centre stage’ in making curriculum and pedagogic choices that will enable all students to learn to ‘think geographically’. Good lesson planning enables this in a day-to-day basis, but effective teachers always need to have in mind where they are trying to get to in the longer term in terms of their students geographical learning and why they are trying to get there. In the next few slides we unpack the key components of curriculum making, but through a social justice lens. We acknowledge that social justice is a wide-ranging field of enquiry and that in a relatively short presentation is is impossible to capture its complexity in any depth. However, the intention here is to lay some foundations for future thinking.
  3. In GeoCapbilities 2 three important questions were posed for us to think about : Who are the children we teach? What do the children need to be fully educated in this day and age? How can teaching geography contribute to the education of young people? The diagram here helps us to imagine the nature of the relationship between: children and young people; the purpose of a school geography curriculum; and the contents and processes of the school subject. Here, we are particularly interested in the outer circle and its implications for the GeoCapabilities approach. Hammond (2020) observes that the structure of the diagram is significant because young people are presented as emcompassing all other choices and decisions that need to be made about about school geography. The diagram causes us to pause and ask ‘who actually are the children we teach?’ The language of the diagram reminds us that we teach children and young people who are certainly more than just ‘students’ in classroom with exams to pass. She argues that before any curriculum making can really take place teachers need to look beyond the ‘student’ persona’’ and really try to get to know and understand the needs, aspirations, hopes and fears of the children in front of them: where are they from, what interest them, what makes them tick, what do they find difficult, and more. In her analysis of the diagram Hammond contends that failure to really understand the children we teach and failure to see them as more than just school students is likely to lead to uninformed and probably irrelevant curriculum making. It is well documented in research literature that implicit and explicit negative judgements of students based on class, gender, ethnicity and ability labelling can do untold damage to their experiences and enjoyment of school and education and undermine their achievements at the end of 11 or so years of compulsory education. The Youtube video by Diane Reay, on this section of the GeoCapabilities 3 website, goes a long way to helping us to see ways in which a national education system, despite claims to the contrary, can seriously undermine some students’ learning and their achievements, even to the extent that attainment gaps widen rather than narrow as students go through school; Reay presents a convincing case that for some students schools exacerbate rather than offsets inequalities in young people’s educational outcomes. In the light of this It seems obvious that knowing and understanding the children we teach is an essential part of being a good teacher. Whilst Reay is talking about class inequalities, the Nigerian author Chimimanda Ngozi Adichi talks about her experiences of racial stereotyping in her TED talk, ‘The Danger of a Single Story’. Although her talk is about her life experiences at home in Nigeria and abroad, she nonetheless manages to capture something of the injustices of any form of stereotyping, be it related to race, gender and identity, class or physical/intellectual ability when she says “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story’. She warns of the danger of the single story when she says ‘show a people as one thing and one thing only, over and over again, and that is what they become’. And so the question here is how and in what ways do schools see children as ‘one thing and one thing and only’ to the extent that they become how they are seen. So a child labelled as ‘low ability’ remains just that because of the groups they are taught in, the types of resources they are allowed access to, the curriculum they are forced to learn. in her book ‘Schooling the Rustbelt Kids’ Pat Thomson, uses the metaphor of the ‘virtual school bag’ to articulate the inequalities that prevail in school systems in many part of the world. The virtual school bag represents the different knowledges and experiences children bring into school with them from home and their communities. She argues that for many children the skills and knowledge they bring to school are not the kinds of knowledge valued by schools themselves. The consequence of this is that even before they start school many students are disadvantaged by the system because they and their parents have neither the knowledge or the power to ‘play the game’ of schooling. Drawing of the work of Bourdieu and cultural capital Thomson goes on to argue that schools reproduce social inequalities because of the curriculum they teach the policies they enact and the expectations they have of themselves and their students. So the question ‘Who do we teach’ is more than just knowing a bit about the students in our classrooms. It is about understanding the complex web of power relations that leave some children enduring rather than enjoying school while others thrive and succeed. And whilst is might feel impossible to challenge the entirety of an education system, nonetheless teachers are honour bound to ensure that their classrooms are socially just places where children are valued for who they are, for what they can bring, and for where they are from.
  4. Having raised some key questions about the ‘pupil experiences’ circle in the curriculum making diagram, here we raise some questions about teachers and teaching. In the curriculum making diagram, teachers and the choices and decisions they make are in equal part important to the curriculum making process as are students and the subject. In GeoCapablities 2 the focus was very much on the work of geography teachers and their role and responsibilities in ensuring the curriculum they planned and taught was fit for purpose ‘in this day and age’ . Particular emphasis was placed on teachers seeing themselves a curriculum leaders, regardless of their role and responsibilities in schools. Within the context of GeoCapailities 2 even relatively inexperienced teachers should, so argues the project, see themselves as individuals with significant responsibilities for ‘making’ the curriculum for their students in their classrooms. Whilst a clear distinction is drawn between a teacher as a subject expert and a teacher as a curriculum leader, the emphasis is on the relationship between the two. Here the concept of social justice takes on two dimensions when we think about teachers and their work within a capabilities framework. Firstly, it is important to consider ways in which the teaching profession is representative of a wider society and why this matters, before then considering some of the challenges teacher’s themselves feel they face in supporting more socially just teaching and learning. Firstly, diversity within the teaching profession. As Professor Rowena Ashrad, of the Diversity in the Teaching Profession working group in Scotland argues (20201), having a diverse profession is good for everyone. She states: ‘Having a diverse workforce disrupts an often one-sided portrayal of the world and it can offer valuable different insights and perspectives to pupils from different backgrounds’. The quote here from a black male teacher in London, Josh Isles, perhaps best summarises the nature of the problem when the teaching profession continues to underrecruit teachers from a diverse range of backgrounds. As a practitioner, he clearly echoes the words of Ashrad and her research, namely that underrepresentation undermines ALL students’ sense of ‘what is possible’ and in so doing creates a barrier to their capabilities building, including their GeoCapabilities. As teacher’s are central to the curriculum making process, ensuring that the profession better reflects the society it serves seems obvious, but is far from the case. A report by the European Commission in 2016 reported country-by-country data on the balance between ethnic minority students in school and ethnic minority teachers, with a particular focus on the recruitment and retention of migrant and minority background teachers. The report summarises country specific barriers to diversifying the teaching workforce as well as strategies being adopted by individual countries to address the issues. Barriers include: teachers’ own lack of recognised qualifications (even though they may be qualified in their home country), financial pressures to train to teach in many European countries makes it impossible for some from different backgrounds to even considering training for the teaching a professions. In some European countries the status of the teaching profession itself was identified as a barrier, with highly qualified individuals from minority backgrounds seeking to follow other more valued professions . Language barriers are reported as key barriers to potential teachers from migrant and/or minority backgrounds entering the teaching profession. Disappointingly the report also captures ongoing prejudice and discrimination within the profession and within wider society as a significant deterrents to the recruitment and retention of migrant and minority teachers. Mitigating actions in the light of these reported barriers that have proved successful in some countries include financial support to enable participation in ITE programmes, confidence building via some form of mentoring scheme, and some form of contractual security for those entering the teaching profession. But in particular, and somewhat obviously, support for potential teachers in developing their language skills was found to have significant impact on recruitment and retention of teachers from migrant or ethnic minority backgrounds. This lack of representation of different groups in the teaching profession is a social justice issue for the profession itself - if teachers are the most important education resource there is, and curriculum making suggests they are, then achieving the aims of education for all children becomes more difficult if we fail to ensure the diversity of the profession. And for students, seeing and working with teachers they ‘recognise’ and who they think might have some affinity with their own life experiences goes some way to helping them actually ‘see’ themselves represented in ordinary schools and classrooms. What does this mean for building capabilities? Martha Nussbaum describes a capability as a ‘substantial opportunity’, is it possible that a more diverse profession, that better reflects the the society it represents, is more effective at creating the ‘substantial opportunities’ young people would have reason to value? Namely ensuring ‘curriculum inclusiveness’ and challenging some of the unwritten assumptions that pervade both curriculum and pedagogy, including in a subject like geography. Alongside considering the make-up of the teaching workforce, a social justice perspective on teaching is the choices and decisions teachers make about what to teach (the curriculum) and also how they teach it (pedagogy). Much of GeoCapabilities 2 considered teachers’ role and responsibilities in curriculum making . And as mentioned earlier, GeoCapabilities takes a position that ALL teachers are curriculum makers, not just those in leadership positions. In the first stages of GeoCapabilities 3 the team (from Belgium, Czeck Republic, France, Netherlands and the UK) interviewed teachers teaching in challenging schools (schools in areas of socio-economic deprivation and often labelled as failing, or unsatisfactory, or inadequate, or underperforming) to try to better understand the nature of their work and the potential of a GeoCapabilities approach to their teaching. The paper presenting the outcomes of this work can be found on this website, but overall the work led to some general conclusions about socially just teaching. 1. Teachers’ having agency over their curriculum and pedagogic work is crucial to curriculum making, but not always possible, as described by some of our participating schools. The accountability agenda (for example for ever improving examination results), common in many jurisdictions, places a lot of pressure on teachers and so detracts from their professional decision making. 2, Access to knowledge development to support the teaching of complex ideas is not easy . Teachers in the project valued the opportunity to re-engage with geography academics researching about migration, but this was a rare opportunity for many. Yet teachers said the chance to access more complex and current geographies to then ‘make’ their curriculum with stimulated their thinking about their subject and their teaching. 3. From the perspective of distributive justice, teachers recognised that their students could not always access taken-for granted resources at home, such as technology and the internet, and that their life experiences did not always support them in meeting the challenges presented by the school curriculum. Teachers commented that students’ negative values and attitudes towards migrants and migration coupled with the abstract nature of some geographical concepts made developing students’ understanding a very real pedagogical challenge. 4. Teachers reported that students own stereotypes, even of each other could make teaching about migration difficult. Whilst building relational capabilities is crucial to mutual understanding and respect, teachers reported the very real challenge of building such capabilities despite shifts in geographical thinking at a disciplinary level. Here we have tried to consider some of the social justice issues facing teachers, such as the make-up of the profession itself and the curriculum and challenges teachers face when teaching a subject such as migration. In the next and final slide we go on to consider the nature of geography as a school subject and the types of pedagogic opportunities that support access to ‘powerful disciplinary knowledge’.
  5. Having now considered students and teachers and teaching, the final ‘curriculum making’ circle we will discuss is school geography and potential pedagogical approaches. Social justice has for some time be embedded in the work of academic geographers and became a key concept in research in academic geography following a conference paper entitled ‘Social Justice and Spatial Systems’ given by the geographer David Harvey in 1971 (Smith, 2000). Harvey’s definitive text ‘Social Justice in the City’, published in 1973, called on geographers to move on from their descriptive roots and to begin to critically examine the relationships between social justice and urban spaces. In 1994 Smith argued that all aspects of Human Geography – cultural, social economic and political – are, by their very nature invested in the study of Social Justice, and Hopkins (2020) cites three broad fields of geographical research - poverty and welfare, gender and sexuality, and race and ethnicity, where social justice and injustice is central to the work of social geographers. In school geography Climate Change, resource distribution and exploitation, international conflict, food security, biosecurity, political ecology, health inequalities, and many others, at the local through to the international scale, can be taught through the lens of social justice and injustice, thus helping young people to understand the ways in which the ‘social processes and institutional decision making’ mentioned by Hopkins (2020) shape and influence their own lives and those of others. Geography can contribute, at a subject level, to young peoples understanding of social justice, but not without the kinds of pedagogies that enable them to critically engage with complex ideas. Margaret Roberts (2014) talks about the kinds of ‘powerful pedagogies’ necessary if powerful knowledge is to be learnt. By this she means that geographical knowledge is only potentially powerful and that if students are to learn to ‘think geographically’ and build their ‘GeoCapabilities’ then students need opportunities to discover their own curiosities and to actively engage with their learning. She states: ‘If students are to engage with disciplinary practice, they need to become aware of the kinds of questions geographers ask, the methodologies used to select and interpret data and how these shape geographical knowledge. To make sense of geographical knowledge, they need to be able to understand, interpret, analyse and critique geographical data presented in different ways: printed text; maps; statistics, graphs; photographs and film. To make sense of geography they need to make connections of all kinds: between existing knowledge and new ideas; between different pieces of information; between different concepts. The ideas about pedagogy that Roberts is advocating here relate to notions of socially just classrooms where learning geography is seen as a participatory practice based on critical thinking. For such practices to be truly agentive classrooms need to feel safe and welcoming for all students and encourage and enable, not singular views and perspectives but multiple ways of thinking and knowing. What this means is that in some way a teacher and her students’ pedagogic practice needs to be transformative - intellectually, socially and politically. The following and final slide is a set of references used in this presentation. They provide different perspectives on the notion of social justice in classrooms and on school geography. There are also some links on this website to specific sources that will take your thinking further.