RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2016 sessions

If you are interested in submitting a paper to any of these sessions please contact the session convenor.

1. The role of reflection in fieldwork Catherine White catherine.white@northumbria.ac.uk;
2. Postgraduate Innovations: Navigating the Research and Pedagogy Nexus Jennifer Pipitone, The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) & Natalie Tebbett, Loughborough University. jennifer.pipitone@gmail.com; N.Tebbett@lboro.ac.uk;
3. GIS Education in Support of Nexus Thinking Michael DeMers demers01@gmail.com;
4. The Environment-Education-Empowerment Nexus:Leveraging Outdoor & Environmental Learning for Change Rebecca Farnum rebecca.farnum@kcl.ac.uk;
5. Education-Practitioner Partnerships: closing research-practice gaps by co-creating new knowledge and understanding Anita Diaz and Jenny Hill ADiaz@bournemouth.ac.uk;
6. ‘Making space for writing: geography and research writing’ Rae Dufty-Jones (Western Sydney University) and Chris Gibson (University of Wollongong) r.dufty-jones@westernsydney.edu.au;
7. Wicked problems in Geography: researching and teaching complexity and uncertainty David Simm and Alan Marvell d.simm@bathspa.ac.uk;
8. Educating undergraduate geographers for/about/using the geographies of children and youthWith GCYFRG John H. McKendrick (Glasgow Caledonian University, Education Officer, GCYFRG)Derek France (University of Chester, HERG) j.mckendrick@gcu.ac.uk;
9. Writing successfully for JGHE Derek France d.france@chester.ac.uk;
10. “Learning GIS: Establishing the Nexus Between Disciplines”With GIScRG Patrick Rickles and Dr. Claire Ellul (University College London) p.rickles@ucl.ac.uk;
11 The publication and utilization of geography textbooks. Tim Hall and James Sidaway Tim.Hall@winchester.ac.uk;
12 HERG Shut up and write launch workshop Sarah Dyer and Matt Wilkins S.Dyer@exeter.ac.uk



  1. The role of reflection in fieldwork

“Fieldwork provides students with the opportunity to test ideas and concepts from the literature against the ‘real world’ of the field, to apply methods and techniques of data collection and observation, and to work effectively in groups with one’s peers and with staff” (Dummer, Cook, Parker, Barrett and Hull 2008:459) Fieldwork provides an example of the power of geographical thinking to work across disciplinary boundaries and to think relationally and it can be seen as an early example of nexus thinking.

The session examines the role of reflection in undergraduate fieldwork which makes connections across time and space. It focuses on papers which cover practices of reflection specifically incorporated into undergraduate field trips. The papers should cover one of the following themes:

  • Current reflection practices in the field
  • The use of technology to facilitate reflection on work carried out in the field
  • Innovative ideas which encourage reflective practices
  • Specific reflective practices which encourage students to think relationally


Titles of potential contributions, author affiliations and a short statement of content should be emailed to Catherine White -catherine.white@northumbria.ac.uk


  1. Call for Papers: Postgraduate Innovations: Navigating the Research and Pedagogy Nexus

Session organisers: Jennifer Pipitone, The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) & Natalie Tebbett, Loughborough University.

The Higher Education Research Group (HERG, RGS-IBG) acknowledges that postgraduate and postdoctoral access to teaching experiences in the UK (and internationally) varies widely. Within UK higher education, Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) have become increasingly integral to the teaching of undergraduate courses (Park, 2004). But as Muzaka (2009: 1) argues: “GTAs occupy an ambiguous niche; they are simultaneously teachers, researchers, students and employees”. Teaching as a postgraduate is a valuable experience for building an academic career; however, opportunities to teach often vary by institution. Moreover, GTAs often receive little to no pedagogical and professional development training (Gardner and Jones, 2011).

Drawing upon Muzaka’s (2009) teacher, researcher, student and employee nexus, this session aims to bring together doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, and with various teaching experiences, to engage with and discuss pedagogical innovations and the challenges, opportunities and tensions involved in postgraduate teaching.

We welcome UK and international doctoral and postdoctoral researchers to submit a range of submissions (e.g. reflective commentaries, theoretical and conceptual papers) and presentations of any style that address, but are not limited to:

Ÿ Turning research knowledge into teaching knowledge

Ÿ Innovative pedagogies (e.g. writing, experiential activities)

Ÿ Access to pedagogical and professional development training

Ÿ Teaching preparation

Ÿ Supervision and mentoring

Ÿ The role of Graduate Teaching Assistants

Ÿ Research-teaching nexus

This will be a supportive and encouraging space for current and aspiring teachers and Graduate Teaching Assistants, as well as those who may be presenting at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference for the first time.

If you would like to participate, please send a title and abstract (maximum 250 words) to both Jennifer Pipitone (jennifer.pipitone@gradcenter.cuny.edu) and Natalie Tebbett (N.Tebbett@lboro.ac.uk) no later than 8 February 2016.


Gardner, G. E., and Jones, G. M. (2011). Pedagogical preparation of the science Graduate Teaching Assistant: Challenges and implications. Science Educator, 20(2), 31-41.

Muzaka, V. (2009). The niche of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs): Perceptions and reflections. Teaching In Higher Education, 14(1), 1-12.

Park, C. (2004). The graduate teaching assistant (GTA): Lessons from North American experience. Teaching in Higher Education, 9(3), 349-361.

If you would like to participate, please send a title and abstract (maximum 250 words) to Jennifer Pipitone (jennifer.pipitone@gmail.com) and Natalie Tebbett (N.Tebbett@lboro.ac.uk) no later than [insert date]. We aim to respond promptly after this deadline.



  1. Session Proposer: Professor Michael DeMers, Dept. of Geography, New Mexico State University


GIS Education in Support of Nexus Thinking

Among the stated strengths of geography is its core of nexus thinking with particular emphasis on the connections, interactions, and cause and effect relationships explicitly occurring in and shaped by geographic space. As an encapsulation of much of geographic analytics of explicitly spatial phenomena, geographic information systems (GIScience) should reflect this nexus thinking. The question at hand is whether such fundamentally geographic thinking is being effectively communicated to the student of GIS at the university level. Of necessity many university level survey courses in GIS require a substantial background in the computational underpinnings of the software, often with little or no direct reference to the analytics. Discussion of the output and visualization of the geographic analytics also requires less geographic nexus thinking than does the analytic portion of the subject. Other topics such as system design may incorporate some spatial analytical needs assessment, thus requiring a level of nexus thinking. Given the wide range of university level GIS coursework internationally, the focus of the program as either applied or theoretical, and the programmatic needs, it is likely that the level of nexus thinking will vary substantially. The degree to which programs or individual courses focus on nexus thinking is not well documented. Indeed, given current efforts of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science to develop a new Body of Knowledge, the now well established US Department of Labor’s Geospatial Skills Competency Model, and efforts by Infrastructure For Spatial Information in the European Community to develop a similar model called GI-N2K (Geographic Information: Need to Know) make it vital that there be a current awareness of the level of geographic nexus thinking being recognized as components of these models. This session brings together university GIS educators, researchers, curriculum designers, and standards developers to begin an examination of what aspects of GIS can be considered to support geographic nexus thinking, where and at what levels it is being taught, how much it is valued in industry standards, and how best to support its continued delivery. Topical presentations will include analysis of individual courses and curricula, examination of standards content, conceptual and theoretical models of geographic nexus thinking, example exercises and related research.


  1. The Environment-Education-Empowerment Nexus:

Leveraging Outdoor & Environmental Learning for Change


Sponsored by the Higher Education Research Group of the RGS-IBG

Session Convenor: Rebecca L. Farnum (King’s College London)


Session Abstract:


“Environmental learning” may refer to education about the environment and natural ecosystems, education taking place outdoors surrounding by nature, or ecologically focused instruction with sustainability as an aim. This session seeks to understand the interplays between the natural environment, teaching and learning, and empowerment – for teachers, students, economies, communities, and nature itself. The session will make use of both local case study and pedagogical theory to consider these relationships. Examples of projects invoking the environment-education-empowerment nexus might include:


  • the work of outdoor education centres in supplementing classroom learning through day trip and residential programmes to focus on ecological subjects;
  • the involvement of university students in mentoring primary and secondary schoolchildren on environmental campaigns; and
  • the use of workshops to teach environmental management and sustainability practices in communities.


The use of the environment in learning and teaching raises multiple questions about educational pedagogy, best practices for environmental management, and the ultimate goal of education. Some of these questions might consider:


  • the value of integrating nature and communities in educational practices for more powerful and lasting learning outcomes;
  • the goals and responsibilities of teaching focused on environmental sustainability and development; and
  • the impact of experiential and value-based learning on environmental sustainability.


Papers and case studies exploring the issues above and highlighting good practice are invited. The convenor particularly welcomes proposals focused on student or community learning and proven outcomes. In considering this session’s theme, proposals might address:


  • How can the natural environment be leveraged to empower communities through learning?
  • Does the environment offer unique opportunities for learning and educational engagement? Is environmental education fundamentally different than other forms of experiential learning?
  • What is the role of nature in this nexus? A tool? A partner? A stakeholder?
  • Does environmental learning take on a different meaning for learners from rural versus urban backgrounds?
  • What is the goal of outdoor and environmental learning?


This session will be formatted as a roundtable with 4-5 presentations lasting 12-15 minutes each followed by discussion across the case studies. Please email queries and proposals (complete with title, abstract of 200-300 words, and presenter information) to Rebecca L. Farnum at rebecca.farnum@kcl.ac.uk. The deadline for Abstracts is Friday 5 February 2016.


  1. Education-Practitioner Partnerships: closing research-practice gaps by co-creating new knowledge and understanding


Conveners – Anita Diaz (Bournemouth University) & Jennifer Hill (UWE, Bristol)


Many fields of environmental and social study in geography, such as environmental conservation, leisure and tourism, development geography, and social and cultural geography, have experienced a schism between the growth of research knowledge and its practical application (Knight et al., 2008; Cooper 2006; Pain, 2004). A key cause of this schism has been the constraining of communication channels as scientists and practitioners are pulled apart by funding opportunities that focus on either research or practice. As pressure mounts for students in universities (and to some extent in schools) to develop work-related competencies in addition to disciplinary knowledge and skills (Erickson, 2012), students can form a vital nexus by engaging in research partnerships with practitioners. Benefits to students from engagement in these partnerships may include gains in subject-specific and transferable skills as well as deeper personal development such as self-authorship (Baxter Magolda et al., 2010). These benefits may be further enhanced if partnerships enable students to experience new, more challenging thinking in borderland spaces (Hill et al., in press). These partnerships may therefore have pedagogic advantages at their core, but they also provide opportunities for co-creating new research knowledge that has practical benefits for environment and society.


In this session we will explore the premise that student engagement as researchers in Education-Practitioner Partnerships can enable students to be a key nexus in the practical application of geography both at the time, through their activity in partnership, and in the future, through the pedagogic development and networking skills they gain through partnership. We will share perspectives on opportunities and challenges offered by a range of stakeholders including students, professional practitioners and academic researchers across the breadth of the discipline.




Baxter Magolda, M. B., Creamer, E.G. & Meszaos, P.S. (2010). Development and assessment of self-authorship: Exploring the concept across cultures. Stylus Publishing, Virginia, USA.

Cooper, C. (2006). Knowledge management and tourism. Annals of tourism research, 33(1), 47-64.

Erickson, R.A. (2012) Geography and the changing landscape of higher education. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 36, 9-24.

Hill, J., Thomas. G., Diaz, A., Simm, D. (In Press). Borderland Spaces for Learning Partnership: Opportunities, Benefits and Challenges. Journal of Geography in Higher Education.

Knight, A. T., Cowling, R. M., Rouget, M., Balmford, A., Lombard, A. T., & Campbell, B. M. (2008). Knowing but not doing: selecting priority conservation areas and the research-implementation gap. Conservation Biology, 22(3), 610-617.


Wicked problems in Geography: researching and teaching complexity and uncertainty

Sponsored by the Higher Education Research Group of the RGS-IBG

Session convenors: David Simm (Bath Spa University, UK) and Alan Marvell (University of Gloucestershire, UK)

Session Abstract

Wicked problems are encountered in all disciplines; in Geography they are typically human-environment issues characterized by high degrees of scientific uncertainty and lack of consensus, for which there are currently no correct or optimal solutions, but which require planners and politicians to make decisions (Brown et al., 2010). Wicked problems include global environmental and social changes such as human-induced climate change, global poverty, food insecurity, biofuels, urban planning, global terrorism, or sustainable tourism. By their very nature they are seen as “messy” real world problems that “defy resolution, requires thinkers who can transcend disciplinary boundaries, work collaboratively, and handle complexity and obstacles” (Cantor et al., 2015). This presents both opportunities and challenges to staff and students undertaking teaching and/or research.

Discussion of wicked or messy problems may explore:-

 What are the opportunities and challenges of teaching ‘wicked’ or ‘messy’ problems?

 Facilitating working in small, multi- or trans-disciplinary teams

 Using multiple methodologies in teaching to examine the issue

 Effective learning and teaching approaches, e.g. problem–based learning, developing cognitive skills, dealing with heuristics and reconfiguring of social discourse


In considering these aspects, some questions emerge that the conference papers might address:-

 What L&T strategies can be adopted to facilitate understanding of complex debates and/or apparently contradictory research findings when translated to teaching situations?

 Practical examples of reframing the conceptualisation and social discourse of wicked problems

 Is it practicable to create multi- and trans-disciplinary teams of students, and what are the opportunities and challenges of such working?

 What are the pedagogic barriers or learning thresholds faced when teaching about ‘wicked’ or ‘messy’ problems?

Please email proposals (title, 200-250 word Abstract) or queries to David Simm (d.simm@bathspa.ac.uk) or Alan Marvell (amarvell@glos.ac.uk). The deadline for Abstracts is Friday 5th February 2016. The format of the session will be the presentation of 4-5 selected papers each lasting 20 minutes.

  1. Educating undergraduate geographers for/about/using the geographies of children and youth

John H. McKendrick (Glasgow Caledonian University, Education Officer, GCYFRG)

Derek France (University of Chester, HERG

It is almost twenty years since the Journal of Geography in Higher Education’s published Hugh Matthews’, The geography of children: some ethical and methodological considerations for project and dissertation work (Matthews, 1998), soon followed by his co-authored paper with Faith Tucker on Consulting Children (Matthews and Tucker, 2000).  Viewed in context, these papers were part of an emergent field of geographical study, which together with the impetus provided by the breadth of geographical research in the ESRC’s 5-16 programme and the emergence, initially as a Working Group, of the RGS-IBG’s Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group, laid the foundations of what has flourished into an established sub-discipline of geography in the UK and beyond.  Although the approaches, positions and research priorities of this sub-field have been challenged in recent years, as might be expected for a maturing field (e.g. Robson et al., 2013; Holloway, 2014), what is less clear is an understanding of the ways, and extent, to which the geographies of children and youth are embedded in the education of students of geography in higher education.

This session invites contributions, which explore the extent to which, and ways in which, undergraduate geography students:

Engage with the lives of children and youth through their studies (about children and youth);

      Apply their geographical learning to improve the lives of children and youth (for children and youth); and

      Utilise understanding of the lives of children and youth to enhance their geographical understanding (using children and youth).



Holloway, S. L. (2014). Changing children’s geographies. Children’s Geographies12(4), 377-392.

Matthews, H. (1998). The geography of children: Some ethical and methodological considerations for project and dissertation work. Journal of Geography in Higher education22(3), 311-324.

Matthews, H., & Tucker, F. (2000). Consulting children. Journal of Geography in Higher Education24(2), 299-310.

Robson, E., Horton, J., & Kraftl, P. (2013). Children’s Geographies: reflecting on our first ten years. Children’s Geographies11(1), 1-6.

 How to facilitate creativity and imagination to address wicked problems in our research and teaching?

 What roles can geographers play in communities of practice dealing with wicked problems?

Case studies and the critique of practice and issues are sought to examine these issues. Particular focus on the learning and teaching strategies, and the students’ experiences, are welcomed.


Brown, V., Harris, J.A, and Russell, J.Y. (eds.) (2010) Tacking wicked problems: through the transdisciplinary imagination. Abingdon: Earthscan.

Cantor, A., DeLauer, V., Martin, D. and Rogan, J. (2015) Training interdisciplinary “wicked problem” solvers: applying lessons from HERO in community-based research experiences for undergraduates. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 39(3), 407-419.


  1.  Writing Successfully for the Journal of Geography in Higher Education


Derek France (University of Chester, HERG)

After discussing the mission of the Journal of Geography in Higher Education (JGHE), panelists will explain the submission, review, and publication processes of the JGHE. Topics will include the nature of material appropriate for submission, the types and level of evidence necessary to support findings, the recommended length of manuscripts, advice about writing for an international readership, and JGHE’s citation index. Prospective authors will be encouraged to interact with panelists through an interactive paper review session and to discuss issues specific to manuscripts they are planning or writing.


  1. Abstracts are invited for a session jointly held by the GIScience Research Group (GIScRG) and the Higher Education Research Group (HERG) at the Royal Geographical Society – Institute of British Geographers International Conference 2016. The conference runs between 30th Aug – 2nd September, 2016 at the Royal Geographic Society in London.


“Learning GIS: Establishing the Nexus Between Disciplines”

Convened by: Patrick Rickles and Dr. Claire Ellul (University College London)


Geographic Information Systems (GIS), though formerly considered only to be a fundamental tool of research for Geography, have lent themselves to extending and enriching analyses of many disciplines. Illegal activities that threaten populations, areas with unequal access to resources, those vulnerable to natural and manmade disasters – these are interdisciplinary issues that require researchers to work across domains of knowledge and can begin to be investigated through the use of GIS. GIS, however, have often been said to be difficult to use, as there is specialist knowledge that needs to be acquired to understand and adeptly use it.

That said, this has not stopped enthusiastic researchers from successfully applying GIS in their analyses, but they may not have had an easy process in doing so. People have individual styles and ways of learning; it is important to understand their learning journey and support it as best as possible – whether it is through classroom training, online tutorials and videos, or simply getting bespoke help from those already familiar with GIS. Through perseverance, the outcomes of their research may be enlightening, not only to their discipline, but for others as well, as new analytical methodologies may create new opportunities.

This session brings together researchers from disciplines inside and outside of Geography, as well as GIS experts providing skilled insight into interdisciplinary research to share their experiences on learning and applying GIS in interesting and innovative ways. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Those who have learned GIS, sharing the successes (or failures) from their learning experience with suggestions for improvement
  • Those from disciplines / sub-disciplines that may not be familiar with GIS who have successfully applied it in their research
  • Those who have learned to use and apply GIS analyses across disciplinary boundaries to bring researchers together

We would like to welcome participants to send us a submission detailing your work. Titles, abstracts (roughly 250 words) and 5 keywords, along with contact details should be emailed to Patrick Rickles (p.rickles@ucl.ac.uk) by Friday, 5th February, 2016. Notification of acceptance will be given by Friday, 19th February, 2016.


  1. Conveners: Tim Hall (University of Winchester) & James D Sidaway (National University of Singapore)


Textbooks, it has been argued, shape disciplines. They certainly reflect disciplinary mores and fashions. Yet despite their importance to the discipline there has been limited discussion of the production and consumption of geography textbooks. This panel will bring together authors, editors and a publisher. They will reflect on the publication and consumption of textbooks in geography amidst changing pedagogic, economic and socio-technical landscapes. In so doing, we will build on earlier published debates, considering the future of research monographs in geography (Ward et al, 2006), the influence of textbooks (Hubbard & Kitchen, 2007; Johnston, 2006) and canonicity (see the theme issue of the Journal of Historical Geography Volume 49, 2015 on ‘the geographical canon’). Although mindful of shifting mores and modes in publishing and higher education, we also want to bring an historical perspective (as in Keighren, 2010) to bear on the discussions.


P Hubbard & R Kitchen (2007) Battleground geographies and conspiracy theories: a response to Johnston (2006), Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS 32 428-434.


R J Johnston (2006) The politics of changing human geography’s agenda: textbooks and the representation of increasing diversity Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS 31 286-303.


I M Keighren (2010) Bringing Geography to Book: Ellen Semple and the Reception of Geographical Knowledge (I. B. Tauris, London) [175th Signature]


University of Winchester, a private charitable company limited by guarantee in England and Wales number 5969256.

Registered Office: Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR


  1. HERG ‘Shut up and write’: A yearlong writing support group


Launch workshop of an HEA supported project.




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