What makes Geography a worthwhile school subject? An exploration of the current controversy in geography teaching


Haden-Walker, James 2019. What makes Geography a worthwhile school subject? An exploration of the current controversy in geography teaching. Thesis https://doi.org/10.48773/93x2y
AuthorsHaden-Walker, James
Qualification nameEdD

Geography as a school subject is in controversy. This controversy is given expression in an on-going debate between the opposing views of two leading academics Alex Standish and David Lambert. The Standish/Lambert debate reflects the discussion by the philosopher Paul Hirst in the 1960s of the nature of geography as a ‘field’ of knowledge rather and an independent ‘form’ of knowledge. The ‘field’ that is geography is said by Standish (2007) to be politicised while Lambert (2009) argues that this is just geography in modern form. In this dissertation Standish, Lambert and other leading geographers were interviewed to explore the nature of their disagreement and how it relates to what Michael Young (2007) has described as the need to give all pupils ‘powerful knowledge’.

In addition to interviews with experts and teachers, this study carried out a questionnaire of geography teachers in Staffordshire. This study found that this dispute in the academic world reflected real divisions in what teachers understood as the value and nature of geography. Some teachers saw knowledge, or skills, as more relevant while others emphasised values and attitudes. They had a varied range of views relating to geographical knowledge and the impact of wider environmental issues alongside concerns over time allocation for the subject and its hierarchical position in relation to other ‘core’ subjects such as Mathematics, Science, and English.

The study concluded that geography will remain in controversy until the Standish/Lambert debate is more fully discussed and debated among teachers. This thesis is a contribution to that debate.

KeywordsField and forms of knowledge Hirst; Powerful Knowledge Michael Young; Geography; Alex Standish David Lambert; Geography Teaching
PublisherUniversity of Derby
PGR Student
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.48773/93x2y
Web address (URL)hdl:10545/623816
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Output statusUnpublished
AdvisorHayes, Dennis
Publication process dates
Deposited06 Jun 2019, 13:06
Publication dates16 May 2019
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