Towards a Disciplinary-Conscious New Zealand School Geography
This research sought to establish a dialogue between the academic discipline and school subject of geography, by exploring the potential of disciplinary-conscious teaching and learning. Although there have been advocates for utilising the concept of perspectives to develop disciplinary-consciousness (Bliss, 2005; Chalmers, 2003; BOGT, 1999; Puttick, 2013) it is unclear the extent to which that pathway has been navigated in school geography policy and practices (Firth, 2011a; Maude, 2015). Broadly, the focus of my research was underpinned by a ‘Futures-3’ curriculum stance (Young & Muller, 2010), in which geography teachers and students were encouraged to engage with the nature of knowledge production in a multi-paradigmatic discipline. The study drew upon the theoretical energy of Bernstein (1999; 2000), whose sociological analysis of the segmented structure of social science knowledge has congruence with accounts of the development of geographical thought, and therefore helps give direction to the substantive focus of the research problem. Furthermore, Bernstein’s articulation of the field of recontextualisation offers further theoretical support for how academic geographical knowledge, such as the concept perspective, is (re)imagined for school geography knowledge. As my study is mostly focused on the field of recontextualisation, my sequential case-study design included three distinct phases of empirical inquiry: i) a document analysis of the place and role of the concept of perspectives in curriculum and assessment materials 2001-15; ii) an e-questionnaire of subject specialists; and iii) a Lesson Study inspired collaboration with two teachers and a group of senior secondary students. This latter component of my study was supported by the pedagogical frameworks of Puttick (2013), Hodson (2014) and Moje (2015). Phase 1 and 2 analysis concluded that the concept of perspective has been recontextualised across multiple documents as a stakeholder framing, which emphasises the views of individuals, groups and organisations, rather than signalling a disciplinary-conscious approach to the subject. Evidence from the geography education specialists suggested disciplinary-consciousness had been considered too challenging for teachers and students alike and therefore was unlikely to dislodge the orthodox stakeholder framing. The lesson study collaboration showed, however, that disciplinary-consciousness is not out of the question for students or teachers, and that Puttick’s (2013) looking at and looking along conceptual framework is a productive guide for teachers who are starting to provide their students in a basic grounding of paradigms and perspectives influencing geographical thought. The major implication of this research points towards a recontextualising field in which the social relations within it are structurally configured to make it difficult for a creative engagement with the nature of geographical knowledge to prosper. In this case study, disciplinary-consciousness has been marginalised by subject specialists who are mostly distant from the academic discourses that shape geographic knowledge production. Consequently, curriculum and assessment signalling of perspectives is surface level, and sometimes confusing. Moreover, the prevailing educational discourses that currently shape New Zealand education generate little ‘ideological space’ (Bernstein, 1996) for conversations about the variegated nature of geographical knowledge to ferment. The study concludes with some recommendations for the wide range of actors within the current field of recontextualisation. It is suggested that a collectively aligned response across the sector is required if geography students are to be given the opportunity of exploring different ways of seeing in the construction of geographical knowledge.