TEACHING EUROPE IN GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION:
A BENCHMARK STATEMENT
Geography is an inclusive, diverse and complex discipline dealing with real-world current and future challenges, which makes it a vital scientific discipline and school subject to get knowledge, understand and act in a world of global change.
Geography studies provide a spatial context to Europe. Re-conceptualisations of space and place are fostered through interdisciplinary studies of physical, environmental and human landscapes. Six headline ambitions for Europe in the current European Commission agenda and seventeen Sustainable Development Goals in the Agenda 2030 for Europe have an indisputable spatial approach, like the Green Deal, Digital Age and impact on the economy and society, Europe in the world, and European citizenship.
Geography education prepares spatially aware, critical and engaged citizens. It allows students to understand interactions and the impacts of human activity on the natural environment, and to develop an awareness of the relevance of issues affecting Europe at different scales, from village to planet.
Through Geography education, young Europeans can develop connections to their environment (physical, social, economic, political and cultural), links to their localities and the world outside, their capacity for individual and joint action as well as an awareness of the impact of their actions.
Teaching Europe through Geography education is about perceptions and beliefs about space and time and the role that Europe plays in a changing world.
Geography helps us to become critically aware of regional diversity and solidarity through European values. It also contributes to raise awareness of European identity through natural and cultural heritage, landscapes and cities.
Geography education demonstrates how places exist in complex, inter-related and inter-connected systems and it illustrates ways that people can and do interact with places.
Learning about Europe through geographical studies should give individuals a sense of their place in society and in an interdependent world.
Teaching Europe through Geography education prepares young people to apply their geographic capabilities so that they can make a meaningful contribution to their ‘community” as responsible, active and spatially aware ‘world’ citizens.
Learning about Europe through Geography should be a compulsory component of all education programmes helping students acquire key competences for lifelong learning in the renewed European Education Area.
TEACHING EUROPE: THEMES ABD TOPICS
The following themes and topics should be addressed, set in the context of countries in a united Europe and critically reflecting a Eurocentric world view
• Defining – describing Europe
• Dealing with big issues in Europe – inequality, biodiversity, human diversity, values, sustainable development
• Decision making in Europe
• Human and environmental processes in Europe, like migration and climate
• Human and environmental landscapes
• Environmental change (and human impact) in Europe
• Disaster risk reduction – adaptation, mitigation, resilience
• International cooperation, interactions within and beyond Europe – role of Europe, trans-border cooperation, globalisation
• Control of geographical space – security
• Peace and threats to democracy in Europe
• Citizenship and responsibility
European Case Studies
• Dealing with issues such as liveable communities
• Bridging local experiences and global issues
• Studies related to school/university location
• Differences in cultural thinking – religions and ideologies – literature, language and histories
TEACHING EUROPE: TEACHING / LEARNING APPROACHES
Teaching and learning should develop skills such as:
• Spatial thinking
• Dealing with complexity
• Critical thinking
• Relational thinking
• Problem solving
• Systemic thinking
• Green sustainable competences
• Digital skills
Using approaches that involve
• Empathy and emotions
• Student-centred learning
• Case studies and comparative activities
• Project-based activities
• Experiential learning involving field studies
• Collaborative learning
• Geotechnologies for geographical data literacy and visualisation
• Future thinking
• Developing alternatives
A five-stage learning process is envisaged – Think – Analyse – Evaluate – Act – Reflect
• gather information, describe situation
• interpret, assess, transform, order, synthesise
• judge, evaluate, argue, assess, build opinions, generate ideas
• present, collaborate, respond
• reflect on approach and previous actions, return to first stage
TEACHING EUROPE: LEARNING OUTCOMES
Students should be able to recognise the societal relevance of Geography when learning about Europe and weigh up the importance and challenges of European values, issues in the local, regional, national and international contexts of their studies.
Students completing Geography study programmes should be able to:
• Recognise different aspects of Europe and how they have changed
• Investigate/explore European issues from geographical perspectives
• Identify stakeholders, recognising who is responsible for and benefits from the process
• Identify and focus on the important geographical factors involved and analyse them
• Set the issues in a relevant European context and specify any internal and external connections
• Be empowered to develop an agenda for change
• Devise likely actions and consider wider impacts
• Be able to act on these to shape the world around them in a sustainable manner
• Use geotechnologies in studying about Europe
This benchmark statement has been produced as a result of the GEODEM Project, initiated and discussed at the EUROGEO Annual Meeting and Conference in Mytilene, Lesbos, Greece in April 2022, shared for peer review and then analysed and further developed at the EUROGEO Annual Meeting and Conference in Krakow, Poland in April 2023.