When they are written at their best, student’s NEAs show real expertise and knowledge of the subject which has been developed through extensive reading. Feedback from our moderator two years ago identified our two extremes of students who ‘at best’ had read widely, whilst others had relied too heavily upon the course textbook.
Trying to encourage students to read to develop that expertise can be quite a challenge, and this year has had the added challenges of lockdown and no residential fieldwork. These two factors I feel have significantly disrupted the learning momentum. So how do you get students to read more broadly, encouraging independence whilst at the same time guiding them towards materials which are academically rigorous? It seems that there are two essential elements to this – providing a wide variety of sources of reading, and then guiding them about how to access that material.
Paid for resources at a department level – there are two main sources which I pay for as they are not that expensive and the level of expertise of the material is significant. The first is a GeoFactsheet subscription which is invaluable in terms of the creative ideas from a wide range of subject specialists, and the RGS subscription which gives students access to a wide range of materials, including topical lectures from academics (there was recently one of how the Covid pandemic would change urban centres).
Paid for resources from the school library. We are lucky enough to have a librarian who is keen to support our students reading for a wide range of NEAs, and so we have a school subscription to Philip Allen (Geography Review archive) and also a whole school subscription to JStor (which is also great for the EPQ). JStor has huge search capability, but can also be quite a challenge for students as it finds a huge range of resources, some of which may be of limited relevance. Teaching students to set quite tight search parameters is an important part of using both JStor and Google Scholar (see below).
Really good geography open resource sites. Organisations such as the Field Studies Council have lots of guidance about sampling and possible methodologies which are pitched at A level students.
Free resources – Google Scholar is a very powerful search engine, and although many of the articles are firewalled, if used in conjunction with JStor most items can be found.
The Wikipedia question. Although I really work hard to move my students away from Wikipedia, often the references at the end of an article will signpost potentially worthwhile reading and exploration.
Textbooks (old and new). The greatest resource in any Geography department is the experience and resources of the teaching staff, most of whom will have geography or related degrees. Some of the specialist textbooks we will have acquired during our years of study will have relevant section on topics such as soils which can develop student expertise in relatively small chapters.
Accessible files of resources. During the course of an academic year I have created a series of digital folders in our student shared area where I put material which could be relevant by project type. I divide them up by subject content and then by fieldwork techniques. Into these folders I put relevant GeoFactsheet, scanned articles and master copies of fieldwork technique method sheets.
Page or chapter resources in books. I am currently giving students help in providing them with specific locations in books, as it can often be quite daunting giving them a large textbook for trawl through. How specific I should be about the location of information is always a bit of a dilemma for me – whether to point just to the book, the chapter or specific page numbers.
Training students on effective and efficient internet searching. Most students are too broad in their searches, especially with Google Scholar and JStor. They need teaching about using parameters such as location (UK base studies) and date (as recent as possible – one of my students tried to include a text from 1898!).
I am very happy to share resources and materials if anyone would like further help or to ask any questions. Please email me.
Jane Ayling, HoD Geography, The King’s (The Cathedral) School, Peterborough.
By placing a booking, you are permitting us to store and use your (and any other attendees) details in order to fulfil the booking.
We will not use your details for marketing purposes without your explicit consent.
You must be a member holding a valid Society membership to view the content you are trying to access. Please login to continue.
Join us today, Society membership is open to anyone with a passion for geography
Cookies on the RGS website