Beyond the specification: Changing Places

Having read Kate Stockings’ ‘Beyond the Specification’ post, I thought I’d share some of the sources I use with my Year 12s and 13s, both in class and to set independent work. I’m using the AQA topic ‘Changing Places’ but I know it’s called something slightly different for the other exam boards.

I will use Kate’s criteria, so resources must be:

  • Free to access
  • Engaging and readable for 6th form students
  • Encourage students to think geographically beyond the prescribed content of their course.

Although this applies to the whole A-Level, you have to get especially creative for Changing Places – after all, you’re expected to expose pupils to all the following: statistics, such as census data maps geo-located data geospatial data, including geographic information systems (GIS) applications photographs text, from varied media audio-visual media artistic representations oral sources, such as interviews, reminiscences, songs etc…

To help you get started, here are just 5 sources I use regularly (apologies if they’re too London-centric!):

  1. The IMD 2015 vs 2019 comparison: http://dclgapps.communities.gov.uk/imd/iod_index.html – before the 2019 one was released, we just had the 2015 data to go off. Now you can either view the 2015 data on its own (for a glimpse into the past), the 2019 data for the most up-to-date view or both maps side by side for comparison!

2. The Underground Map: https://www.theundergroundmap.com/ – the Underground Map is a project which is creating street histories for the areas of London and surrounding counties lying inside the M25. https://www.oldmapsonline.org/ makes a great addition to this if it’s maps you’re after.

Using tool: this is a great one for the history of place but also how places have changed, sometimes even over quite short periods of time. So very much: “How both past and present processes of development can be seen to influence the social and economic characteristics of places and so be implicit in present meanings.”

3. NOMIS: https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/ –  if you’re looking for ward-level data, look no further! I mainly use this for demographic and employment data. If you want it mapped then check this out.

Using this tool: use ward level data for your local place study, perhaps making comparisons to older data (2001), or to other nearby areas if you’re looking into evidence of deprivation, regeneration, gentrification, etc… The possibilities with this site are virtually endless!

4. 99% Invisible: https://99percentinvisible.org/ – this one is a little bit of a cheat as it’s not a site (although they do great articles), but rather a phenomenal podcast.

Using this tool: Either pick the episode yourself or get students to find one that’s relevant. For example, for #364 ‘He’s Still Neutral’, I got students to consider the following whilst making notes:

  • What was the image/reputation of the intersection of East 19th Street and 11th Avenue prior to the arrival of the statue?
  • Why do you think criminal activity in the area, including dumping, graffiti, drug dealing, and prostitution, had dropped by 82% as of 2014?
  • How is this an example of “attempts to influence or create specific place-meanings and thereby shape the actions and behaviours of individuals, groups, businesses and institutions”?

5. Places of Poetry: https://www.placesofpoetry.org.uk/ – Looking for some qualitative data for a change? This site is all about “celebrating the diversity, heritage and personalities of place” and it delivers; it has over 700 poems for London alone! Want songs? Oral histories? Pictures?

Using this tool: We’re after “critical perspectives” from students, so anything which gets students analysing critically the usefulness of qualitative sources in ascertaining place meanings and perceptions is fit for purpose! Students can sometimes fall into the trap of believing QUANT = objective, hard data and therefore very useful, QUAL – subjective, biased and therefore not that useful. The 2019 examiner’s report had this to say about that: “Too many students overstated views that all qualitative sources were biased and failed to see the richness of such sources in representing places.” Couldn’t have put it better myself!

Perhaps also get students to think about how places are represented different across different mediums and how qualitive sources “often give contrasting images to that presented formally or statistically such as cartography and census data.”

I’ve not even touched the sides in relation to resources for Changing Places, but I thought I’d keep it to 5 for now. Please feel free to let me know any you think are essential when encouraging students to go beyond the specification for Changing Places!

Finally, as always, if you have any questions about this then please feel free to contact me via Twitter!

Abdurrahman Pérez, May 2020
@mr_perez5

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