INCORPORATING THE PERSPECTIVES ON GEOGRAPHERS’ WORK IN HIGHER EDUCATION CURRICULA

C. Sancha1, A. Barbarà Molinero1, R. Cascón-Pereira2

1OBS Business School (SPAIN)
2Universitat Rovira i Virgili (SPAIN)
The meaning, purpose and nature of Higher Education (HE) are undergoing profound changes (Whalley et al., 2011). HE Institutions are adopting new learning methodologies and redefining their curricula, aiming to provide their students with a different type of knowledge, which is characterized by being more experiential and less theoretical, thus facilitating their incorporation into the workplace (Ives-Dewey, 2008). However, in the particular case of geography studies, Martin (2001) noted that the discipline has been enriched theoretically rather than practically with the result that geographers ‘know’, but cannot ‘do’. This means that geography students are provided with all the relevant concepts of their discipline but not with the required skills to develop the geographer profession. In other words, they are not provided with experiential knowledge, going against the abovementioned trend in the HE context. This situation has concerned academics’ which have focused their attention on the following issues: First, on analyzing geography curriculum to detect its weaknesses such as the scarce consideration of the fieldwork (e.g. Hennemann and Liefner, 2010); Second, on identifying the relevant skills of geographers to be included in geography studies curriculum (e.g. Shlemper et al., 2013); and third, on proposing new curriculums basing on theories such as Kolb’s Experiential Learning which adds a more practical input (Healey and Jenkins, 2007).

But not only, is the analysis of the curriculum of geography studies, in terms of structure or skills, important, but also the incorporation of the multiple perspectives, held by students and professionals geographers, about the geographer profession on the definition of the course curricula.

In order to incorporate these perspectives or perceptions in the geography curriculum, and redefine the educational strategies, it is important to know which images are held by students about their future profession as well as the images held by professional geographers in order to detect the existing differences to align both perspectives. In other words, studying professional identity both in students and professionals is relevant and needed. This will help students create a realistic picture of their future profession since their university studies and reduce their career indecision as well as the tensions generated in the transition from university to the workplace (Fred, 2004; Maier et al., 2011)

So, the purpose of this article is to analyze the existence of differences in the image that geographers and geography students have about the geographer profession. In that sense, we aim to answer the following research question: What are the differences between the image held by students and professionals about the geographer profession?

By answering this research question we aim to contribute to the geography education literature by providing alternative educational measures that incorporate a realistic picture of the geographer profession that help to clarify students’ PI, and reduce, as exposed, the existing tensions on the transition from the University to the Workplace. Also, based on the proposed strategies several outcomes arise for HE Institutions (e.g., lower dropout rates, lower academic failure and lower degree switches) (Smitina, 2010) and for their future organization (e.g., more productive, satisfied, creative, motivated and formed professionals would be incorporated) (Canrinus et al., 2012).