Teaching Community? Encountering 'the Other' Through Geographic Fieldwork
The learning experience should be a vivid encounter with 'the Other' an encounter that calls us to account. Experiencing the full reality of others means we change our established views to accommodate their perspectives, and this engenders a sense of connectedness and community with them. We are used to thinking about 'the Truth' as a collection of facts and ideas about others, which we gather and manipulate to achieve our own individual goals. However, 'the Truth' we should encourage students to experience is this sense of community that we discover with others. Geography, as the study of the real places of the world through fieldwork, is particularly well suited to pursue this pedagogical model. These ideas underpin a second year university level module I run for Geography students which is based around residential field work with communities in the Western Isles of Scotland. I am currently using qualitative research methods to examine the student experience of the module. How, for example, does student understanding of these communities change over the field work experience? Does the direct encounter with these people and places increase a sense of connection with them? Does student awareness of themselves as members of the teaching group and of communities that extend far beyond the classroom change over the course of the module? This paper reports on the findings of this evaluation and reflects on the potential geographic fieldwork has for 'teaching community'
Keywords: Pedagogy, Community, Geography, Place, Fieldwork
Dr Max Hope
Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography, University College Chester