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Knowledge and the Geography Curriculum A Social Realist Approach Benjamin Major.

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Presentation on theme: "Knowledge and the Geography Curriculum A Social Realist Approach Benjamin Major."— Presentation transcript:

1 Knowledge and the Geography Curriculum A Social Realist Approach Benjamin Major

2 The Knowledge Turn? The National Curriculum should set out clearly the core knowledge and understanding that all children should be expected to acquire in the course of their schooling. It must embody their cultural and scientific inheritance, the best that our past and present generations have to pass on to the next (Department for Education, 2010: 41)

3 The Ethical Turn Alex Standish: The conclusion drawn here is that geographys ethical turn with a focus on global perspectives itself serves to directly undermine the moral case for geography. It does this through its retreat from geography as an objective body of knowledge and seeker of truth and its replacement with personal geographies and truths. The outcome is to deny students the geographical knowledge and skills they need to make sense of the world around them. (Standish, 2009: 4)

4 A Balanced Curriculum

5 An Unbalanced Curriculum At the present time [1997], according to Marsden, the curriculum is out of balance again. As a result of the dominant debates and conflicts between the New Right and the progressive educational movement, links with academic geography had been neglected… In fact, because New Labours priorities are not subject-based, the danger is that the debates will gravitate even more strongly to this area, leaving subject content out of the action. (Rawling, 2001: 143)

6 Powerful Knowledge Knowledge of the powerful is defined by who gets the knowledge in a society… Powerful knowledge refers to what the knowledge can do or what intellectual power it gives to those who have access to it. Powerful knowledge provides more reliable explanations and new ways of thinking about the world and acquiring it can provide learners with a language for engaging in political, moral, and other kinds of debates. (Young, 2008: 14)

7 The Pedagogic Device Pedagogic discourse is constructed by a recontextualising principle which selectively appropriates, relocates and relates other discourses to constitute its own order. (Bernstein, 2000: 33)

8 Knowledge Structures Horizontal knowledge structures: a series of specialised languages, each with its own specialised modes of interrogation and specialised criteria… with non- comparable principles of description based on different, often opposed, assumptions (Bernstein, 1996: 172-3) Hierarchical knowledge structures: an explicit, coherent, systematically principled and hierarchical organisation of knowledge, which develops through the integration of knowledge at lower levels and across an expanding range of phenomena. (Bernstein, 1996: 172-3)

9 The Epistemic Device The epistemic relation (ER) generates a knowledge structure – the relation between a knowledge claim and its object of study (this is a non-arbitrary, necessary relation intrinsic to the knowledge itself). The social relation (SR) generates a knower structure – the relation between the knowledge claim and the subject or knower (this is an arbitrary relation based on power relations and contextual contingencies).

10 The Challenge The challenge is to view curriculum knowledge both as object and product (derived from a particular knowledge structure and object of study), and as subjective practice (the recontextualisation of disciplinary knowledge into a curriculum, informed by social interests and relations).

11 Research Questions How has the balance between the social, educational and subject components of the geography curriculum shifted since the arrival of the Geography National Curriculum and how will the new curriculum review once more effect this balance? What underlying causes and mechanisms have brought and are bringing these changes about?

12 Research Questions What changes have occurred in the ways that knowledge in the geography curriculum has been classified and legitimated? What recontextualising rules are at work in geography curriculum development? What internal, necessary constraints and enablements are imposed on the curriculum by the structure of the knowledge and its object of study? What external, contingent factors relating to context and social relations in the field also shape this curriculum?

13 Research Design Initial use of Systematic Review for general overview and to source key curriculum documentation Interviews with those who have been directly involved with shaping the national geography curriculum. Analysis of these key documents and interviews using Critical Discourse Analysis

14 Critical Discourse Analysis Critical Discourse Analysis starts from the perception of discourse (language but also other forms of semiosis, such as visual images) as an element of social practices, which constitutes other elements as well as being shaped by them. Social questions are therefore in part questions about discourse – for instance, the question of power in social class, gender and race relations is partly a question of discourse. (Chouliaraki & Fairclough, 1999: vii)

15 Critical Discourse Analysis CDA is particularly appropriate for critical policy analysis because it allows a detailed investigation of the relationship of language to other social processes, and of how language works within power relations. CDA provides a framework for a systematic analysis – researchers can go beyond speculation and demonstrate how policy texts work. (Taylor, 2004: 436)

16 Significance of the Research … we would suggest that the specific pressures placed on geographical education researchers in the UK have tended to lead to problem-solving approaches to research. There is a focus on providing knowledge useful to teachers in schools. The prospects for a renewal of debate about the aims and purposes of geographical education, based on an engagement with a wider set of theoretical resources, seems remote. (Morgan and Firth, 2010: 90)

17 Any questions? Benjamin Major

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