‘Should we accept Syrian refugees? ’Developing Year 8 students’ understandings of place with reference to the European refugee crisis

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Ellis, Christopher
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Educational Level
Curriculum Area
Geographical Setting
This paper describes an attempt to develop Year 8 students’ understandings of place over a short lesson sequence about the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East. Conceptually, it aimed to move students beyond a static view of place - as manifested in populist anti-immigration stances - and towards a relational understanding of place informed by the theories of Doreen Massey (2004). Students’ thinking was tracked across five lessons framed around an enquiry question: ‘should the UK accept Syrian refugees?’ The paper documents how students’ understandings developed in multiple, complex, and at times contradictory ways. This is important as pedagogical research on migration – in education studies generally and school-based geography in particular – is severely lacking.Moreover, the shift in some students’ views from anti-refugee to pro-refugee demonstrates the potential of geography teaching to engage with controversial issues and guard young people against indoctrination.
Keywords (free text)
PGCE Secondary , Geography , Classroom , Education , Year 8 , refugees
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