Editorial introduction: Using Routes Volume 2 Issue 1 in the classroom

By C Nayeri, Editor-in-Chief

Volume 2 Issue 1

Geographical theme →
Geographical skills/ approach 
Managing flood risk (Paleo) bio/ climatology COVID-19Lived experience of women and LGBTQ+ peopleColonialism 
Interviewing (1)    
Evaluating Natural and Social causes (2)   
Evaluating theories  (3)   
Analysing issues by scalar unit  (4)  
Analysing spatial differences    (5)(5) 
Concepts of inequality/ marginalisation   (4)(5)(5) 
Statistical modelling (6)    
Sediment core and laboratory techniques  (7)   
Critical reading    (8)
Figure 1. Table maps out common geographical themes of articles in Volume 2 Issue 1 of Routes alongside analytical/ research skills and approaches which inform each article.
  1. The impacts and management of flooding in the upper course of the Calder Valley, UK
  2. To what extent can humans be blamed for the end-Pleistocene mass extinction of the megafauna?
  3. ‘Natural laboratories’ in perspective: a review of literature on theories of island biogeography
  4. Covid-19 and its effects on inequality
  5. Exploring the enhanced spatial marginalisation of women and LGBTQ+ people as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK
  6. Modelling the potential impacts of climate change on river morphology
  7. Assessing historical climate and fire regimes in Manacrin Moor, England, using a palaeoenvironmental Reconstruction
  8. A review of ‘How to Hide an Empire: A Short History of the Greater United States’

The referencing of articles in this editorial refers to the numbers in Figure 1   

It is a great pleasure to share Routes Volume 2 Issue 1 with you! 

Routes is now an established outlet for sixth form and undergraduate geographers to publish their essays, dissertations and independent research. The quality of this work is exceptional because of the care authors invest in their articles and the expert guidance authors receive from our team of Editors and reviewers. Teachers can therefore rely on articles being valuable sources of information to enrich classroom teaching. 

Figure 1 groups articles in this issue into common themes and also by key geographical approaches/ skills. This is a deliberate simplification of the rich themes and ideas in each of these works in the hope that it acts as a useful starting point for educators looking to incorporate Routes into their teaching. Geography not only has a set of key thematic areas that geographers write about (see the top row of Figure 1), but we also have a particular grammar that defines commonalities in how geographers approach writing and research. Often my students ask how writing an essay in geography differs from writing essays in other subjects. I often start by encouraging my students to set aside some of the more conventional formats of arguing, for example arguing for and against an issue, and encourage them to think about geographical forms of argumentation which at their most basic level, it could be argued, revolve around changes over space, scale and time. In other words, I encourage them to think about not only what they are writing, but how the structure of their argument reflects a geographical response to a particular issue. 

When we review student work for publication in Routes, we are not only interested in if the theme of the article falls into a disciplinary area of geography, but how the style of writing in submission reflects a geographical approach to an issue. It is in drawing these two dimensions together that Routes articles can be used to greatest effect in the classroom.

Figure 1 shows how common issues such as flood risk management can be approached from different perspectives. For example, (1) is an illustration of how to incorporate in-depth interview techniques to explore managing flood risk, whilst (2) approaches a similar question through the use and development of a statistical model. Educators might therefore use articles 1 and 2 to inform classroom discussion around climate change, flood risk and mitigation strategies, but they might equally use these articles to explore how students can incorporate these important geographical techniques into their writing and learn more about how to carry them out. 

Similarly, articles 4 and 5 are both concerned with issues of marginalisation and inequality related to COVID-19. However, (5) demonstrates how using spatiality as a lens can be used to explore these issues, whilst (6) uses scale as an analytical device to explore inequality caused by COVID-19. The structuring and analysis presented by these essays can be equally as useful for exploring other topics in human geographer as it is in physical geography. 

Articles 2, 3 and 7 approach topics of (paleo)biogeography and environmental change through three different analytical lenses. Article 2 shows how to approach an issue through evaluating Social and Natural factors, whilst (3) is a wonderful illustration of how students can evaluate different theories by finding differences, contradictions and limitations. Article 3 also shows students how to produce an literature review in which they critique and analyse the literature on a particular issue. This will be a particularly useful example to share with students writing literature reviews for an NEA. There are also hints in each of these articles of how factors such as space, scale and time are relevant analytical approaches to these issues. Article 8 is a good example of a piece of writing which demonstrates how to read and analyse a book through a critical-geographical lens. 

In my own sixth form teaching, I have found sharing articles from Routes with my students raises expectations of the quality of work they are producing. Many are surprised when I reveal that the articles we have read together in class are written by students their own age and this sets the tone for the quality of their own writing. Sometimes I ask students to read a Routes article for a homework task to deepen a topic studied in class. More often, I read articles together with students in-class to guide them in developing skills of ‘close-reading’ and critical thinking (see also Dan Whittall’s examples of lessons). I have also used the articles to teach important key skills such as how to reference accurately. Sharing examples of articles from Routes with students has made a significant difference to giving them the confidence to start referencing in their essays and offered the chance to talk through how and why the structure of an essay matters for enhancing the arguments presented. 

Please do share with us the diverse ways in which you are using Routes in your lessons!

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