City as school: learning beyond the classroom

2017-03-01T23:45:01Z (GMT) by Fox, Bruce Ian
This research developed the concept of city-based pedagogy to examine learning in the Central Business District (CBD). It explored how educators use interdisciplinary approaches to the city as the focus for learning rather than as the site for application of discipline-based skills and concepts. Importantly, it also explored diverse ways the city acts as pedagogue, providing unplanned and often unexpected learning for middle secondary students involved in one to four week city experience programs. The study used a focused ethnographic approach to understand how educators and students at CityFocus – a distinctive provider of student programs – responded to a socially constructed and politicised city environment. As part of ethnographic data collection, my work used a go-along strategy where the activities of educators and students in different sites around the city provided opportunities for in situ observations and discussions. In processing fieldwork data, concepts from space and place, social learning, place-based pedagogy, and experiential learning informed understanding of student engagement in an environment where they will visit, study, work, or live. In this constantly changing city environment, I found that using the concept of city-based pedagogy widens our thinking about affordances or opportunities in the spaces and places of the city. I demonstrate how treating the city as an interdisciplinary subject using social learning approaches, promotes student engagement with the life and unknown people of the city. Educators who support rather than direct student activity encourage responsibility for learning, assisting the development of agency and independence. As a means of investigating city-based pedagogy, the thesis extended the use of focused ethnography and the go-along technique for data collection. In the broader educational research environment, my thesis contributes to the conversation concerning the needs of middle secondary students. I also offered directions for educational thinking emphasising the use of learning environments outside the school, while meeting school-based learning outcomes. Further, my thesis contributes to the expanding body of research using space and place concepts to investigate educational issues.