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Spaces of Education Research Programme

This research programme coordinates the expertise, research and scholarship at Exeter on the spatialities of education and learning in society. The programme has four areas of focus:

1. Spaces of education

This work brings definition to a growing area of geographical study which takes the sites, knowledges and relationships of education as objects of geographical study. This has included studying the effects of a proliferation of learning data in schools (Finn), the provision of spaces of education for those with socio-emotional differences (Lea) and the division and reproduction of academic labour in universities (Dyer).

2. Environmental citizenship

This area of work contributes to debates on how people learn about and relate to their environments, and education that intends to promote practices of conservation, sustainability and environmental resilience. This includes research on behaviour change around sustainable practices (Barr), community resilience to environmental change (Barr and Woodley), understanding and communication of climate change (O’Neill).

3. Engaged research and public pedagogies

This area of research investigates public understanding of geographical issues. The work often prioritises co-learning experiences generated through public, participatory, engaged, co-design and citizen science approaches. The work includes the sharing of geographical knowledge through initiatives like game-based learning about ice flows (LeBrocq - Ice Flows game) and understanding the making, trading, purchase, use and disposal of things (Cook - Follow the things) and MOOCs (Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions and Who Made My Clothes?). This work contributes to research and scholarship on such initiatives in books (Barr and Woodley), peer-reviewed journals (Barr, Cook et al., Barnett) and also in reports (Barr and Woodley).

4. Geography education

Members of the Research Programme are recognised nationally and internationally for expertise on how people learn about geography and geographical issues as an everyday practice and how geography is taught in school and university curricula. This involves leadership of and involvement in subject networks (Dyer – Chair, RGS Higher Education Research Group, leader of THE GEES network), (Finn – member of Geography Education Research Collective). It also involves scholarship as authors of sector-leading undergraduate textbooks (Cloke).

Work in this area is recognised by high profile awards such as to Professor Ian Cook et al: 'for excellence in the promotion and practice of teaching and learning of geography in higher education' (RGS Medals, 2017), to Professor Sarah Dyer who was made a National Teaching Fellow for ‘individual excellence, raising the profile of excellence and developing excellence’ in Geography and to Dr Damien Mansell, winner of the ESRI UK Scholar Award for his teaching of ArcGIS 2017 for this storymap.

Strategic aims

  • To foster international and interdisciplinary research on the spatial dimensions of educational practices.
  • To become a centre of excellence for work which leads the discipline in the scholarship of teaching and learning of Geography in Higher Education.
  • To contribute expertise to University of Exeter initiatives which seek to promote public dialogues and mutual forms of learning and impact from and through research.