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How do ethnic minority students represent geographical knowledge? Exploring the stories that relate to representations and link with post-14 subject choices.



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Kitchen, Rebecca Jane 


Students who identify as being from an ethnic minority are under-represented within school geography in England at Key Stage 4 (ages 14 – 16) and Key Stage 5 (ages 16 – 18). At these stages geography is an optional subject and how students view geographical knowledge may influence their GCSE and A level subject choices. This study uses an intersectional theoretical lens to explore representations of geographical knowledge by students of different ethnicities, the stories that relate to these representations and how the students accounted for the GCSE and A level subject choices that they made.

The first part of the study reveals a lack of empirical and contemporary research into ethnic minority students’ views of geographical knowledge and subject choices. This is followed by a two-strand exploratory case study at one girls’ grammar school in England. The practitioner-researcher strand was two phase; in the first phase, 314 sixth form students (aged 16 – 18) completed a questionnaire to gauge initial views of geographical knowledge. During the second phase, eight of these students represented their views of geographical knowledge through collages, critical incident charts and semi-structured interviews that explored their stories in depth. In parallel, a group of Year 10 (aged 14 – 15) students as researchers used questionnaires to investigate the influence of parents and other factors contributing to students’ subject choices at GCSE level.

In the study, geographical knowledge was represented in different ways given different methods. It was found to be diverse and individual, although it was possible for specific themes to be identified. The representations reflected the characteristics and concepts from students’ recent formal experiences of geography. Informal experiences also featured but these were not always explicit or straightforwardly definable. Unless students could see the intrinsic usefulness of their view of geographical knowledge then they were unlikely to choose the subject past GCSE level. This study expands theoretical conceptualisations of how students represent geographical knowledge and the factors affecting subject choice, engages students as researchers in a methodologically innovative way and provides a rich and detailed account of post-14 subject choice by ethnic minority students which otherwise does not exist in an English context.




Taylor, Elizabeth


ethnic minority students, geographical knowledge, post-14 subject choices, GCSE, A level, geography, education, intersectionality, subject choice theory, collage, critical incident charts, semi-structured interviews, students as researchers, formal experiences of education, informal experiences of education, case study, girls' grammar school


Doctor of Education (EdD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge