Student transitions: journeys into and through geography at university – 21st May 2021

Here you’ll find the videos, summaries and associated resources for the May 2021 GeogEd event Student transitions: journeys into and through geography at university.

Sessions below include:

  • Academic and social transitions to and through university
  • Student Voices on Transition to Geography in HE
  • Supporting and valuing diverse transitions

You can also find a list of academic resources related to student transitions.

Academic and social transitions to and through university

Dr Lauren Hammond (UCL Institute of Education) provides an introduction to the Geography and Education Research Group event on Student transitions: journeys into and through geography at university.

The first session is a presentation from Professors Simon Tate and Peter Hopkins (Newcastle University) on Academic and social transitions to and through university, chaired by Dr Lynda Yorke (Bangor University). They look at the UK academic context, review previous research and note that the voices of students and consideration of social transitions alongside academic transitions have been largely absent. Simon talks about the academic transition and a focus on skills (fieldwork, extended writing, making an argument, and reading), noting the need for more understand of how things have changed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Peter considered social transitions using the idea of ‘critical moments’ that people see as having important consequences for their lives and identities and looks at how transitions to university may be made up of, or the backdrop to, a diverse range of critical moments. They finish by considering approaches that have been show to aid the transitions of students to higher education – noting that students are diverse and transitions take different forms, as can the support.

For more see https://research.ncl.ac.uk/studenttransitions/.

Their book Studying Geography at University: How to Succeed in the First Year of Your New Degree was published in 2020.

Student Voices on Transition to Geography in HE

The second session is a group discussion of Student Voices on Transition to Geography in HE. Hosted by Dr Niall Majury (Queen’s University Belfast) and Dr Matt Finn (University of Exeter) the discussion focuses on a range of transition experiences from students Zara Hamilton, Sophie Graham, Lucy Millsopp, Morgan Beattie, Leanne Domican, Lauren Mallon, Julia Anusiak, Cara Greene, Paulina Gawronska, Fiona Duffy and Alice Murdock (geography students at Queen’s University Belfast). The discussions explore expectations of university (which can be romanticised) and geography (and how diverse it is), moving home and commuting, coming after a gap year, settling in, meeting people and making friends, becoming more independent, time studying and ‘contact hours’, support at university and careers, how assessments and your connection with a teacher/lecturer change and negotiating group work.

As noted above we’re aware that transitions can look different in connection to where we live, the higher education setting we’re joining, our identity, heritages and background. The stories shared in the second session reflect these students’ experiences but there are many other experiences that you might connect with more. If you go to an open day online or at a university you should have a chance to hear from a range of students and hear their experiences and ask questions. You can also find out more about different people’s stories here: https://www.rgs.org/geography/black-geographers/ and https://www.blackgeographers.com/blogs/news/ and where this has taken people here: https://www.rgs.org/iamageographer/.

Supporting and valuing diverse transitions

The third session was a panel discussion on Supporting and valuing diverse transitions with Cath White (Northumbria University), Ellie Hopkins (Predergast School), Hina Robinson (The King John School) and Steve Brace (RGS-IBG) and chaired by Dr Alan Marvell (University of Gloucestershire).

Ellie talks about the value of sessions she and students were able to access through the Royal Geographical Society – https://www.rgs.org/ and started a YouTube channel – The Curious Geographer to share similar experiences with students https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCv3KwaZkZPCPT7Nl6KYnnew. A great resource is also GEO: https://geographyeducationonline.org/.

Hina talks about her journey into geography as a young East African Asian women. She talks about getting students from different ethnic backgrounds, and their parents, to understand the value of Geography – including that it is a STEM subject, and where it can take you. She notes student questions in applying for university and whether they need to worry about racism, and the value of connecting with universities, and lecturers providing talks in schools.

Steve talks through some of the key findings of the RGS-IBG Geography of Geography report – the positive stories about high course completion, and graduate careers, and growth in GCSE Geography entries being made up of those previously less well represented, but that the subject at A Level, and degree-level is not yet representative of the social diversity of the UK: https://www.rgs.org/geography/key-information-about-geography/geographyofgeography/

Cath’s background at Northumbria University, and previously as a teacher has given her a keen interest in transition and Cath reports on research projects about transition with a focus on skills. Cath was Chair of the GA Tyne and Wear branch until 2019 which makes guest lectures available here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuX671sHO3CcqbBy4j0lanVantHgjkBSK

Ellie and Hina summarised thoughts from their students about their hopes and concerns – including themes around employability, independence, thinking about London universities and concerns about moving to other places, getting a sense of universities through ‘unofficial’ social media and peer networks, which may diverge from the ‘official’ presentation of that university, whether the teaching will be interactive and provide space for questions, and questioning.

The panel talked about a question on anti-racist teaching and pedagogy.

The organising committee for the event was: Heather Barrett, Matt Finn, Lauren Hammond, Ruth Healey (Chair of GeogEd Research Group), Niall Majury, Alan Marvell, Tony Timlin, Harry West (Secretary of GeogEd Research Group), Cath White

Thanks to Matt Finn for the video editing, session summaries and collating the resources list.