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Expanding students' ability to conceptualise the dynamics of changing places in the teaching of environmental geography
journal contributionposted on 13.07.2018, 00:00 by Michael Danaher
“Research has consistently found that pedagogy informed by knowledge of students’ existing ideas is more efficient in promoting conceptual change than traditional methods of instruction”. Learners in the sub-field of environmental geography exhibit preconceptions that frame and sometimes hinder their knowledge acquisition. Those preconceptions need to be harnessed and where appropriate displaced and replaced with more effective understandings if learning is to be successful. University educators have a crucial role to play in assisting this process. This paper examines a community-based teaching approach within the geography discipline at an Australian university deployed to clarify, then displace learners’ preconceptions and replace them with more empowering capacities. The learning context involves a diverse range of university undergraduates undertaking environmental geography courses for the first time. The examination is framed by the notion of multiple forms of capital, some of which students bring with them to this learning context and others of which need to be acquired during the course of study. The paper employs an exploratory case study design, augmented by a qualitative analysis of students’ and academics’ experiences. The interdependent processes of displacing preconceptions and replacing them with heightened capacities are demonstrated to be crucial ingredients of capitalising (on) sustainable and sometimes transformative learning places.