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Belonging to the geography community

‘The underpinning functions of our subject community – to incorporate and disseminate professional knowledge and define standards of knowledge and practice – produce both tangible and intangible benefits that flow in both directions. Just as transport systems provide the physical infrastructure for safe and reliable travel between places, so subject communities provide a form of social infrastructure, helping to chart the means of communication and exchange between individuals.’

Alan Kinder, 2017

Topics on this page:

  • Why is a professional community important?
  • How do I link with my geography community?
  • Geographical websites, blogs and Twitter
  • Reading 

Why is a professional community important?

Professional interaction and communication between geography teachers is essential so that expertise is shared and knowledge of professional practice in geography teaching is developed.

As a new teacher, it is particularly important for you to meet and discuss with other geography teachers, not only to widen your knowledge of professional practice, but also to enable you to adjust your own expectations and reflect on your own teaching in the light of discussion.

This is best done when you can work actively with other geography teachers, such as when developing curricula within your school, in a cluster group or within a local geography network. It is important to share ideas with other subject specialists who talk the same geographical language and are working together with a common purpose.

  • Read Kinder (2017) which explores the wide range of professional geography communities and networks and their roles.

How do I link with my geography community?

Seek out opportunities where you can enjoy a rich and sustained level of interaction with other geography specialists. As a new teacher, you might have this arranged for you in regular meetings with other geography trainees. To continue this community beyond planned meetings can be advantageous for all concerned, but it requires a concerted effort from you and others to sustain purposeful contact.

To maintain contact with your geography community you should become a member of at least one of the organisations that support the specialist teaching of geography. The two leading organisations in England are:

  • The Geographical Association (GA) set up in 1893, to promote and develop excellent teachers and teaching of geography, this is the ‘subject association’ for geography. It has two journals useful for secondary geography; Teaching Geography and Geography, an annual conference for geography teachers and much more (including this website!). There are over 40 branches in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and a Welsh Special Interest Group.
  • The Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG). The RGS was established in 1830, to promote the gathering and communication of geographical knowledge; it is the ‘learned society’ for geography and merged with the IBG which has a research focus. In recent years the Society has developed its support for geographical educators and education.
  • There is also the Scottish Association of Geography Teachers that is Scotland-based, and supports geography teachers around the country and runs an annual conference.

As a member of a geography professional body, more opportunities open up for you to make contact and network with geographers and keep abreast of new ideas for geography teaching. You could join your local branch of the GAsign up for free GA email updates, subscribe to the RSS feed, and follow the GA on Twitter. There are reduced membership rates for new teachers. So why not join online today?

In your local area, ask geographers about existing geography networks. In the past these were often organised by local authorities, but new ones are developing through organisations such as academy trusts, teaching schools and cluster groups. Both formal and informal groups exist and you will need to keep alert to developments in your region.

Geography TeachMeet events are organised by teachers around the country at evenings and weekends where teachers share ideas. You often find out about them through social media or word of mouth – ask local geography teachers.

Around Easter every year, the GA holds its Annual Conference and Exhibition, and free registration is available to students who are members of the GA. Student registration does not include lunch, however there are several outlets where you can purchase food. Students who are not members of the GA should join to receive free entry of book as a student non-member. Please note ECTs are unfortunately not entitled to the student rate. ECTs who are members of the GA should book at the Concessionary member rate.

This conference will help you find out about the current hot topics in school geography and examples of good practice and you will be able to discuss and share thoughts with teachers and trainee teachers who are attending the events alongside you. Find out about this year’s conference from the GA website, and register for a place so that you can experience the buzz from the geography community in person!

  • Refer to First time at Conference from the GA’s Secondary Phase Committee for top tips, from collecting free resources and choosing the right workshop to sharing ideas over a drink, which should help you make the most out of your first time at the GA Annual Conference.

Geographical websites, blogs and Twitter

Roberts (2023) comments that the ways in which geography teachers can be connected to other geography teachers have been transformed through digital technologies. She writes:

They can be connected digitally with a very large group of people involved in geographical education, giving them opportunities to share ideas, resources, lesson plans, to discuss issues and to increase their geographical and pedagogic knowledge. They can have access to podcasts, blogs and resources produced by practising teachers. They have opportunities through Zoom, Google Meet and online conferences to interact with people all over the world.‘ (p 144.)

  • Refer to Roberts (2023) Figure 14.4 for some examples of support for the networked geography teacher.

While you need to heed warnings about giving careful consideration to the source and quality of media sources of geographical information, there are a number of good resources that are widely available from reputable geographical sources.

There are lots of Twitter handles but here are some that you might want to follow as a start:

@The_GA, @RGS_IBG, @DavidAlcock1, @kate_stockings,@easygeography, @RichardBustin, Alan Parkinson@GeoBlogs, Rob Chambers@RobGeog, @ploguey, @_jopayne

And websites and blogs, such as: GeogChat and Mrs Humanities

Reading

  • Kinder, A. (2017) ‘Belonging to a subject community’ in Jones, M. (ed) The Handbook of Secondary Geography Sheffield: Geographical Association, Chapter 24.
  •  Roberts, M. (2023) Geography Through Enquiry: Approaches to teaching and learning in the secondary school, Second edition, Sheffield: Geographical Association.