UCL Department of Geography


Fawcett Case Study

In 2009-10, Dr Peter Stiff, from Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, Elstree, was a Fawcett Fellow. This is his account of his ‘sabbatical’ term at UCL

The Fawcett Fellowship for me has been a wonderful time of personal rejuvenation and of building various ’bridges’ between school and university Geography.  My expectations when I started at UCL on 1 September have been far exceeded, in large part through the friendship, encouragement and open engagement of all the department’s academic and support staff. They are the resource that has made the time so fruitful!

My first ‘bridge’ to build was the connection for students between sixth form and university. I attended the majority of the First Year lecture courses running this term, on International Problems, Human Ecology, Writing and Analysis in Geography, and Physical Processes. It has been interesting to note how the courses take students from their A-Level experiences and then introduce new ideas and concepts. They are offered fresh challenges both as regards content and methodology. I have also been able to sit in on several First Year tutorials, each of 4-5 students meeting weekly, to observe how, within a smaller scale and therefore more personal setting, students are helped through the process of transition.

The second ‘bridge’ connected to my activities as an A-Level examiner. These have benefited from consultations with individual staff members, as well as attending lecture courses across the student years, including the Masters programmes. Their advice about content will inform my work on future developments in the post-16 curriculum and help maintain an effective progression in geographical content and techniques leading towards university studies.

I have long held an interest in what can be helpfully thought of as ‘Geopolitics’. It has therefore been particularly pleasing to realize its current importance in Geography at UCL, as witnessed in many lectures, especially in relation to globalisation and the pressing concerns of environmental change. I am hoping that, as well as providing material for exam courses, I can use this material for a school-based General Studies course on Geopolitics.

My final ‘bridge’ connected to the current literature, allowing me to devise a programme to encourage sixth formers, as part of their studies of urban geography, to think critically about the origins and contemporary nature of suburbs. I live in the suburbs and am only too aware of the changes taking place in these areas. Too often sixth formers do not even notice just how dynamic their own environments are. I have been able to tap the expertise of UCL staff and library resources to prepare two articles for publication in ‘Geography Review’.

I believe it remains vital to continue building and securing bridges between schools and universities. The unique Fawcett Fellowship scheme offers teachers a very special experience that enhances and invigorates both the individual and the subject. I urge anyone who feels they can benefit to apply now!