Education: Posts

July Author of the Month: Stephen Scoffham

We are pleased to announce that our Routledge Education July Author of the Month is Stephen Scoffham! Author of the award winning textbook Teaching Geography Creatively, which is part of the Learning to Teach in the Primary School Series. Read our exclusive interview with Stephen below.

Stephen Scoffham studied philosophy and history at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK and trained as a teacher at the Froebel Institute in London. He then worked on a research project on urban environmental education before becoming a primary school teacher in East Kent. He drew on these experiences in his first book, Using the Schools Surroundings (Ward Lock Educational 1980) which launched his publishing career. As the Schools’ Officer for the Canterbury Urban Studies Centre and subsequently as a tutor in Initial Teacher Education, Stephen has concentrated increasingly on primary geography, creativity and inter-cultural learning. He has written widely for schools and teachers and is an established adviser/consultant for school atlases. Stephen was awarded a PhD in 2002 and is currently a Visiting Reader in Sustainability and Education at Canterbury Christ Church University and President elect of the Geographical Association, 2018-19.

I became interested in using the local environment as a teaching resource from an early point in my career as it seemed to engage pupils and to offer a meaningful context for learning. As I became more interested in notions of place and environmental quality, I found myself being drawn towards geographical perspectives and I began to develop educational resources based on my school experiences. Giving children as much scope for creativity as possible within a given framework is a fascinating challenge. I realised that geography, although it was once dominated by rote learning and tinged with colonial undertones (remember those lists of countries and their products?), is actually about constructing meaning and trying to understand the world around us.

Teaching Geography Creatively is an edited book so in order to co-ordinate over a dozen authors I first drew up a master plan of possible amendments and then suggested the changes which I thought would be desirable to the relevant individuals. The revised edition has more material on topics such as technology/IT, SEN and Early Years, we have reorganised the sections on outdoor learning and added an entirely new chapter on physical geography. The second edition also takes account of the new curriculum (introduced by the UK coalition government in 2014) but has adopted an approach which is empowering rather than limiting. Finally, we have included references and teaching ideas about British values - another major new curriculum development

Most books on geography teaching have very little to say about creativity and nearly every book on creativity makes little or no reference at all to geography. Yet geography is a hugely creative endeavour. It is about making sense not only of the world around us but also of the way we react to our surroundings and the meanings which we attribute to places. This understanding is one of the key themes which runs through the book. And it relates directly to fundamental questions about how humanity can learn to live more equitably within the finite limits of the planet on which we depend. The book has been widely acclaimed by the teaching profession, winning the highest awards from the Geographical Association in both 2014 and 2017. In their latest report the judges declared that is an ’exceptional’ book and that there are ‘few resources which offer such a rich combination of imaginative pedagogy, practical approaches and well-evidenced theory’. So its strength lies both in the scope and the depth of what we have written.

We wanted to inspire students and teachers and to help them to find ways of making geography enjoyable, purposeful and rewarding. At the current moment, schools are under enormous pressure to focus on targets in mathematics and English and the ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum to which pupils are entitled is under threat. A focus on creativity offers an alternative. Creativity is something which humans possess in abundance and it is one of the features which distinguishes us from machines. But creativity is an elusive and rather ambiguous quality which we find difficult to acknowledge. People used to believe that creativity was inherited but we now know that it can taught and developed. We believe that geography can give children the chance to fulfil their potential and we spell out how this can be done through a wide range of practical examples that are derived from classroom experience and rooted in theoretical considerations.

Teaching Geography Creatively offers a pedagogy which respects the integrity of children as joyful and imaginative learners and sets out a vision of how geographical understanding can contribute to making a better and more equitable world.

Check out the new edition of Teaching Geography Creatively!

Connect with us!

Follow us on Twitter

Find us on Facebook