Jeffrey F.L. Partridge
The Hartford Heritage Project is a place-based education (PBE) initiative. PBE takes the place where a school is located and incorporates it into the curriculum. Thus, museums, historical societies, parks, community centers, care facilities, local businesses, government agencies, and other valuable community resources become an extension of the classroom. This gives students a practical and local context for knowledge learned in their courses, and it makes the school a vital part of the life of the community. The following bibliography is intended as a resource for faculty and researchers.
This bibliography was originally compiled September-December 2014. Additions and updates after these dates will be noted.
This annotated bibliography contains books and articles, with most articles gleaned from searches on JSTOR, LexisNexis, Academic Search Premier, and Project MUSE. Terms used included “place-based,” “place-conscious,” and “community-based” in education journals and in all journals. “Place-based” generated the most useful material. Further defining searches with terms such as “higher education,” “college,” and “university” did not reveal articles on place-based education in higher education, except where “place-based” was discussed in contradistinction from “online” education or “distance learning.” Thus, while “place-based” in K-12 discourse refers to a pedagogical practice that utilizes the local community as the locus of study and educational encounter and is supported by a sizeable body of research, the same term when applied to higher education appears to refer to traditional classrooms if it is used at all. “Community-based” in higher education produced some results, but mostly these articles refer to medical and nursing pedagogy and community health initiatives, and some articles refer to “service learning.”
Few, if any, of the books and articles referenced in this bibliography specifically address higher education, but all of them are relevant to the topic and each annotation in the bibliography draws attention to the relevant material, sometimes at the expense of the book’s or the article’s main argument. For example, the annotation for an article on fifth grade ecology lessons may reference only a theory raised by the article that is relevant to higher education in multiple disciplines without addressing the article’s obvious aim to influence elementary education.
As related above, searches for articles in this particular topic and various permutations revealed that there is not yet a significant body of research or discussion on place-based learning in higher education in these databases, except for those that use the terms “place-based,” “place-conscious,” and “community-based” differently. However, a great deal of research and discussion surrounds two specific areas that are of relevance to the topic: (1) the philosophy of place, and (2) the pedagogy of place. The former is a body of knowledge stretching back to Aristotle’s Physics; the latter is a relatively new pedagogical development grounded in K-12 education. The bibliography is divided into these two topics, but the primary interest of the bibliography is in the pedagogy section.
Note: the initials PBE are used commonly in the bibliography for Place-Based Education.
Part One: The Philosophy of Place
Casey takes the reader through “the history of philosophical thinking about place” in this book (xi). Place is important, he says, because it is elemental to our existence and our experience:
We are immersed in [place] and could not do without it. To be at all—to exist in any way—is to be somewhere, and to be somewhere is to be in some kind of place. Place is as requisite as the air we breathe, the ground on which we stand, the bodies we have. We are surrounded by places. We walk over and through them. We live in places, relate to others in them, die in them. Nothing we do is unplaced. How could it be otherwise? How could we fail to recognize this primal fact? (ix)
Despite its centrality to our lives, place is not something we tend to think about. Even in philosophy, place has not been given the kind of status that space and time have received. Casey suggests that it is perhaps its obviousness that allows us to take it for granted. But this is not to say that philosophers haven’t written about place. There is, in fact, a rich, if hidden or ignored, body of work on place. In this volume, Casey sets out to tell that history. He begins with creation stories from a variety of world cultures to show how such notions as void, chaos, and space interact with the notion of place, and then discusses the entrance of place into philosophy in Plato and Aristotle. In Physics, Aristotle moves the discussion from Cosmos to the commonplace: “Aristotle illuminates the role of place in the concreta of everyday life” (75), which initiates the “fateful transition from ancient to modern thinking in the West” (78). Casey then traces the discussion of place through Western thought up to the present, showing how space overshadows place to the end of the 17th century and then “vanished altogether from serious theoretical discourse in physics and philosophy” in the 18th century (133). He then traces what he calls “the reappearance of place” (197) through discussions of the works of Kant, Whitehead, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Bachelard, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Derrida, and Irigaray.
The book’s title refers to the need to recover ground in philosophy that has been overshadowed by a centuries old preoccupation with Space and Time, but also to the absolute necessity of place and placedness to our experience as humans. “We need to get back into place so as to get out of (the binding and rebinding of) space and time. But this is not so simple a step as it may seem” 11). Casey describes the aim of this study is “to articulate an exact and engaged analysis of place more fully, and to trace out its philosophical consequences more completely, than has been done by other students of the subject,” including Heidegger and Bachelard, whose work goes farther than others in exploring place. Reading the preface to this work brings the reader into a full realization of what Aristotle called “the power (dynamis) of place” (21). Here Casey unpacks the numerous ways we experience place, showing that our lives are “so place-oriented and place-saturated that we cannot begin to comprehend, much less face up to, what sheer placelessness would be” (ix). He describes “place-panic,” displacement, “horror vacui” (“the unbridled terror occasioned by the mere contemplation of an entirely vacuous space”), atopia (in Greek “no place,” meaning “bizarre” or “strange”), and other associations with place in philosophy and in our everyday experience (ix-xi). “Where we are,” says Casey, “has everything to do with what and who we are (and finally, that we are)” (xiii). Part One of the book contains two introductory chapters to the discussion, one on “implacement” and the other on “displacement.” Through the rest of the book, Casey explores the topics of “the body in place,” the elemental here-ness of our being about which Casey writes “the fate of the here is tied entirely and exclusively to that of the body” (51); “built places,” such as cities, which he describes as, among other effects, staving off chaos (112); “wild places,” that which came prior to the social cognizance of built places but which “as a concept …is the outcome, not the starting point, of the deferred action of culture, in particular agriculture” (188); and “moving between places,” the topoi of literary figures from Odysseus to Captain Ahab and of ordinary people like ourselves, who, Casey explains, experience “two parallel and simultaneous processes”: close attention to our immediate surroundings and a simultaneous awareness of a larger “circumambient” or “mappable” field (278). He ends the volume with a consideration of homecoming, or “getting back into place,” a call to “resume the direction, and regain the depth, of our individual and collective life” (314).
In this complex argument, Dirlik argues for the necessity of place-consciousness in the face of the destructive powers of globalism driven by global capital. He does so with great concern for the complex and nuanced relations between the global and the local, recognizing the interdependency of these two terms for their very definitions. He shows furthermore how the local is present in the global and vice versa, and he explores issues of hybridity. His project, however, is to show that a privileging of the local is not a utopian ideal (and if it is, then so be it), but a realistic necessity. He writes, “A modernity driven by capitalism has rendered places into inconveniences in the path of progress to be dispensed with, either by erasure or, better still, by rendering them into commodities, which may mark the difference between modernity and postmodernity” (184). And, “the defense or advocacy of place-based imagination here is not a product of a Utopian project, but a response to a very real systemic crisis. The global pressures over the last decade to abandon the myth of the national market has deprived places of the protection they enjoyed under the regime of welfare states, bringing them face to face with the operations of a transnational capitalism, and its cultures” (174). He reminds us that the importance of this issue is brought home when we recognize that there are real people out there fighting a struggle for survival against these powers, and he asks for whom we (academics?) are speaking. The struggle may be fraught with abstraction and charges of utopianism, but we should not allow these charges to force us to remain in a state of complicity (34). “Whose voices are to be the more audible in the ways in which we play the world: the voices of globalism that erase both people and places, or the voices of the weak who are straining to be heard” (184).
The premise of Hiss’s book is that how we experience place is extremely important to our well-being and our quality of life, and we should therefore pay better attention to how we experience place and how we manage our public places in both the city and the countryside. Hiss cites a variety of studies to support the claim that quality of place impacts quality of life and well-being. Through vivid walk-throughs of places like Grand Central Station in New York City and Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Hiss shows how attention to place functions and how a greater cognizance of our surroundings improves our experience of place. Central to this experience is what Hiss calls “simultaneous perception.” Simultaneous perception is an “underlying awareness…a mechanism that drinks in whatever it can from our surroundings…and helps us experience our surroundings and our reactions to them” (xii, 4). He references evidence from the fields of public safety, public health, and mind and brain studies to discuss “the complex and subtle ways” we interact with our surroundings (9). Chapters in the book explore the landscape design of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, city planning, and management of the countryside. He asks, “how can any of us see to it that the fully grown America we’re already preparing for—or the America after that—will continue to make available to people the kind of richly varied and nurturing experiences people have always needed?” (221).
This book of essays discusses the necessity of place and placed-ness in our current era marked by globalization, the internet, and social media. In the introductory essay, McClay argues that “in a frenetically mobile and ever more porous and inexorably globalizing world, we stand powerfully in need of such stable and coherent places in our lives—to ground us and orient us, and mark off a finite arena, rich with memory, for our activity as parents and children, as friends and neighbors, and as free and productive citizens” (3). The authors share the view that our current era is experiencing “an erosion of place” (xi) that threatens the well-being of communities and individuals. The articles in the volume are written by experts in Public Policy, Architecture, History, Government, Transportation, Urbanism, Geography, and more. The topics range from philosophies of place and space, the ways technology challenge our sense of the local, how the embrace of a cosmopolitan ethic ignores the human need for rootedness and belonging, how strategic place-making can respond to historic miscalculations in transportation, architecture, and city planning, and the ways in which civic engagement and embrace of local communities (politics, history, culture) create more effective solutions than leaving planning and action to government alone.
Of particular interest to this bibliography are the discussions of cosmopolitanism by Russell Jacoby, Mark T. Mitchell and Yi-Fu Tuan. Jacoby argues against champions of cosmopolitanism like Appiah, suggesting that the “worldly multiculturalism” (72) espoused by these writers ignores cosmopolitanism’s logical links with the “economic domination” (73) promoted by globalization and its blind spot to those who are disenfranchised by global economics. Jacoby argues that the assimilation resulting from a cosmopolitan ethic can and should be countered by renewed interest in the local, the rooted, and the embrace of healthy differences that mark distinct cultures and communities. Mitchell shares Jacoby’s concerns, arguing for an emphasis on what he calls “humane localism” as a counter to the cosmopolitan impulse. Mitchell dissects cosmopolitanism into three categories—Ethical, Political, and Cultural—and claims that humane localism stands against cosmopolitanism’s ethical allegiance to the entire human race (arguing that love of family and community is our first step toward loving an abstraction such as the human race), cosmopolitanism’s political preference for world government (claiming that such political power is likely to be disastrous, unless cosmopolitanism’s assumption that human beings are “essentially good and perhaps even perfectible”  is valid), and cosmopolitanism’s cultural impact (arguing that the production of universal culture flattens out distinctions of culture and reduces cultural products to their lowest common denominator – popular and easy forms of art). Humane Localism, on the other hand, draws on a sense of “human scale”—a sense of what we can take in and relate to based on our biological and geographical limitations (96). Thus, humane localism begins at the local level and extends to the global. One is only able to love one’s neighbor on the other side of the world by first loving one’s actual neighbor. One appreciates cultural distinctiveness in other cultures by first cultivating an appreciation for one’s own folk culture. “In short, humane localism is rooted in respect, not in homogeneity; in love of one’s place, not hatred of other places; and in the realization that human flourishing is best realized in the company of friends and neighbors sharing a common place in the world” (101). Tuan, on the other hand, voices a concern that privileging localism can lead to disregard for the plight of individuals who are victims of ignorance, poverty, sexism, and other parochial views that can be enlightened by the best that philosophy and education has to offer. His concern is that we not abandon cosmopolitanism because of its tendency toward “lack of variation and flatness” (109) when the great thinkers and cultures of the world can offer so much, but that we also not abandon the value of local wisdom and our need for belonging. Tuan puts first and foremost the idea of human flourishing and claims that “children should, above all, be imbued with the sense that they are heirs to the best in thought and ethics that the entire world has to offer, though, of course, that best may well include local treasures” (103). The aim of education, he suggests, is the forming of “cosmopolites” by educating students for the heights” through cultivating the student’s regard for “the best that her own people has achieved [and] the best that humankind has achieved” (115).
Several articles in the volume touched on civic engagement and the importance of local politics and local history, especially in urban areas affected by poverty. In “Place and Poverty,” William A. Schambra argues for “fighting poverty with place, rather than with programs” (164). In his view, “local communities, even the most poverty-stricken, have developed ways of dealing with their own problems their own way. Such undertakings are largely invisible to us because they bear no resemblance to the massive, bureaucratic nonprofit delivery systems our professionals have built” (168). Schambra believes that we need to empower local communities to work from the inside. Brian Brown’s article “The Rise of Localist Politics” agrees, stating that successful public policy increasingly depends upon empowering local communities toward self-government (176). He describes a “localist trend” (175) in which American “municipalities are trying solutions that involve multifaceted participation” (175). Ted V. McAllister writes in “Making American Places: Civic Engagement Rightly Understood” that “the degree that we live free from the constraints of the cultural and political spaces that we call communities and from the grounding role of history, we sever ourselves from the creative energies of richly encumbered lives. This form of liberation leads to a form of powerlessness” (190). His conclusion is that we can counteract this destructive trend by returning to a sense of place through creative place-making that preserves and improves places and encourages meaningful engagement with those places so that citizens will better “understand their particular role in the larger story of humanity” (191). As with Mitchell’s argument for “humane localism,” McAllister says that “we must belong to something that we can experience directly, to people and institutions (and ideas or beliefs that are embodied in people and institutions) that require daily small acts of loyalty and reciprocity, in order to prepare us to love well and moderately something too large to experience directly” (193). Borrowing from Tocqueville, McAllister suggests that understanding the particular history and significance of our local place leads to a sense of “civic engagement rightly understood,” by which he means citizens committed to healthy self-governance and self-reliance that “fosters a sense of ownership” (199). Pete Peterson’s “Place as Pragmatic Policy” claims that for public officials to be truly effective, they “should possess a keen historical knowledge of the communities in which they serve, and be able to communicate that unique history within the decisions they make and plans they propose” (212). Joseph A. Amato argues in “Local History: A Way to Place and Home” that a study of local history is often the most effective starting place for understanding the world at large. Local history is a “reflective microcosm of national history” though which “local historians can enrich their narratives of a singular and unique place by joining them to larger regional, national, and even global histories” (217). Amato draws upon his own studies to argue that “local” should not necessarily be defined as a single town or city, but should take into account larger allegiances such as regions. He quotes Lewis Mumford in suggesting that local history “promotes ‘a decent self-respect,’ and it is that ‘form of self-knowledge which is the beginning of sound knowledge about anyone else’” (222). Amato applies this approach to the centrality of teaching: “teaching means showing students how to create things out of their own background and place in society. One’s materials can serve as texts and illustrations of local inquiry…In the process they learn that their own region is worthy of study … they discover that knowledge is made, and they learn pride in making it … [and such an education] gives student and teacher an immediate laboratory and community and provides them with a voice in defining home” (232).
McClay concludes the volume with a discussion of a paradox in which he discusses a dialectical relationship in place-making that requires careful attention: the idea that we need to be attendant to place and we need to let place develop spontaneously. He argues that “the optimal urban place is both a nexus of memory and a generator of activity, an enabler of personal aspiration. Place draws us back to the past, but it also serves us as a launching pad from which we are made capable of thrusting forward and upward, exploring new territories and creating new things. It can ground us, and root us in itself—but also lift and inspire us, pointing us beyond and above what we otherwise could be” (250). He concludes: “the most important element in fostering a sense of place is to teach ourselves, or let ourselves be taught, to see with fresh eyes the place where we find ourselves…It is a great and worthy effort, and few objectives could be more conducive to the common good” (257).
Theobald’s premise is that our school system follows the basic assumptions of US society in training young people in the individualist pursuit of material wealth rather than for productive citizenship in democracy and community. He offers a careful and lengthy history of the liberal project, comparing modern liberal thinking inherited from the Enlightenment thinkers with the classic liberalism of ancient Greece to show how our individualist views developed and to suggest that intradependence is not inimical to liberal democracy. He argues that classic liberals held an outward view of the world that was slowly replaced by an inward one that emphasized individual rights and the pursuit of individual happiness (14). Through this historical review, Theobald arrives at a definition of our current worldview, which is problematic in its neglect of and outright opposition to community: “construing life as an individual enterprise, as modern liberal thinking does, necessitates a government based on rights, an economy based on accumulation, and an educational system that reifies the notion that life is an individual enterprise” (31). He ties this devaluation of community to a concomitant devaluation of the rural—rural community life, farming, cyclical time, and the wisdom learned through living closely with nature. In our linear construction of time, for instance, we talk about “spending” time wisely, “wasting” time, and our questions to children are future-oriented (“what will you be when you grow up”), as though there is less value in being a child and living in the moment. Following Dewey, Theobald argues that our nearly single-minded educational orientation toward preparing children for the future, making children into adults, is damaging (133). Damaging too is our emphasis on “success,” preparing young people for a successful life rather than a “virtuous” one: “virtue,” a term that has practically disappeared from our educational system, “speaks of attention to shouldering one’s obligations to others and is therefore more at home in a community-oriented worldview. Success, by contrast, confines itself to the level of the individual” (47). Theobald illustrates how “education as a catalyst in the development of civic virtue” (119) can be attained. Central to this shift is a recognition of the value of place and cognizance of our current sense of “placelessness.” “Placelessness,” he says, “erodes our ability to commit to much of anything other than our own self-interest, and as a result, we have become a society marked by few allegiances and almost no propensity to shoulder mutual obligations” (120). He argues that schools can be the answer to this quandary, and in the final two chapters he sketches out an educational approach in elementary education and in secondary education that puts inquiry, place, and community at the center of the educational endeavor.
Part Two: The Pedagogy of Place
Ault’s first concern is to establish an understanding of place-based curriculum as producing a more equitable and democratic education than standards-based curriculum. He argues that the equity sought through an emphasis on standards is individually oriented and competitive in nature. The aim is to give all individuals the opportunity to be competitive in society. Because standards-based curriculum is broadly applied and politically mandated, it is necessarily controlled and contained. “Control stems from politically imposed mandates to make the curriculum do exactly as wished in the belief that the promise of standards-based education and success-for-all accountability will produce international competitiveness” (606). In contrast, place-based curriculum is adaptive to unique locales and local circumstances and is therefore malleable and to some degree spontaneous; it seeks to engage students in cooperative work and in community, and is in that sense democratic and more productive of equity. Place-based curriculum is like a river, adaptive to environment, evocative, and spontaneous, but also measurable and to some extent predictable and controllable. Ault uses the term “competitive equity” to refer to the traditional sense of equity supported by standards-based curriculum and “reciprocal equity” to refer to the equity supported by place-based curriculum (608).
Ault introduces the term Querencia to describe the situatedness of place-based curriculum: “According to [Barry] Lopez (1992), the Spanish querencia refers to “a place on the ground where one feels secure, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn; a place in which we know exactly who we are; the place from which we speak our deepest beliefs” (p. 39). Querencia encompasses a sense of self drawn from a relationship to place. Querencia secures the feelings and deepest beliefs that attach the self to community and landscape” (606-7).
He then seeks to establish the notion of disciplinary grounding in place-based curriculum since the spontaneous and place-dependency that it requires “reduces the dominance of subject knowledge (and skills) as the driver of curricular reform and complicates efforts to achieve test score parity across social groups” (608). Ault maintains that discipline-specific knowledge and place-centered learning go hand in hand; place provides the “context,” discipline the “tools” (615), but the concern is that place-based curriculum might lead to cursory treatment of disciplinary knowledge (616). The solution Ault offers is that place and standards curriculum must desire coherence and aims that are higher than place and discipline (618). Drawing on Dewey, “coherence refers to connecting what we know to how we know it” (618). In elucidating this point, he presents various types of coherence, including “epistemological and cognitive coherence” (or “making sense”) “experiential and emotional coherence” (or “sense of place”), and “querencia and coherence” (or the combination of making sense and sense of place) (619). “Education that achieves coherence in both senses matters greatly. Both yield feelings of significant attachment that enhance personal identity and encourage community membership. Coherence found in disciplined thinking yields a fondness for trusted ideas. Coherence found in acting to steward landscapes and build community makes knowledge a valued companion. Coherence is a source of strength, the key to knowing one’s beliefs in the deepest sense” (619).
Ault goes into detail regarding various examples of disciplinary thinking in science, and he concludes that “Place-based enthusiasts must be careful, as must all integrative educators, to treat disciplines as more than sources of information. They are disciplined ways of thinking appropriate to solving particular problems. Disciplinary structures do overlap in many ways; nevertheless, to substitute an umbrella of common processes for thinking disciplined by context would be unwise” (626).
In the section on “Commons as a Discipline of Place,” Ault proposes that the concept of the commons is an example of a subject that “functions as a bridge between place and discipline” (628). He provides a useful application of “an umbrella of common processes” through the concept of Landscape and of the Cultural Commons, both of which reveal how disciplinary thinking and place are made coherent when governed by a larger organizing principle.
“The coherence brought to thinking and feeling through living and acting within a place overcomes the limitations of a conception of equity tied too closely to individual competitiveness (an ethic that might even undermine the rationale for public schooling itself). Place also has the potential to exhibit the utility and vitality of disciplined thinking and rescue learners from the sterility of academic purpose often felt in school” (632).
“In place-based education, the local story unveils, thread by thread, a pattern of meanings connected to the rest of the world” (627).
Aoun, the president of Northeastern University, responds to Bill Gates’ assertion that on-line delivery systems are eclipsing brick and mortar campuses. Gates stated, “place-based activity in college will be five times less important than it is today.” By “place-based,” Gates, and in his response Aoun, does not mean community driven pedagogy, but simply “on ground” coursework in brick-and-mortar colleges. While the use of this term sets this article outside the scope of this bibliography, I am including it because of what Aoun overlooks (and therefore this entry resembles a commentary more than a summary).
In arguing that Gates has “oversimplified” the case, Aoun asserts that online learning is one important component of an array of delivery systems in higher education. In the part of his argument where he states the benefits of what he, following Gates, calls “place-based” learning, Aoun talks about “campus and community engagement as follows: “Students in place-based environments also have access to an array of campus and community resources that can augment their learning and enhance their social engagement and interpersonal development. For many students, campus organizations, service learning, sports, school-spirit activities, and other experiences are as important as the classes they take in strengthening their identities and preparing them for the professional world.” Although he is talking about “campus and community engagement,” only “service learning” stands as an example of a community activity; all others are campus activities. Furthermore, Aoun fails to mention the ways that colleges can benefit the communities in which they are situated. His emphasis is on what the individual student gets out of education. A truly place-based emphasis in education would reap greater benefits for local communities – and those local communities include the students who live in them.
After a review of scholarship on PBE, Ball and Lai posit a “radically place-based” pedagogy that critically engages students not only in the study of local artifacts of art and literature that are normally overlooked or excluded by nationalist and trans-nationalist texts and anthologies, but also in confronting and questioning the underlying assumptions and hegemonic structures that formulate our distinctions between folk and high culture, between local and (trans)national, and so forth. In their review of PBE scholarship, the authors conclude that place-based pedagogy faces resistance from education’s nationalistic goals to compete in a global marketplace on the one hand, and from students who dismiss the local as a valid subject of study because of preconceived views about its value or because of their ambition to rise above the local and enter the cosmopolitan sphere with its physical and economic mobility. Ball and Lai argue that a “radically place-based” pedagogy can overcome this resistance by making the inherent assumptions about the local versus the (trans)national the ultimate object of study.
In describing a pedagogy that centers on the local in order to engage students in the politics of culture, the author’s catalog a variety of questions that are worth including here:
“What cultural artifacts are worth preserving and which are not?” (280, Levenduski 2005: 160)
“Which cultural artifacts can be exhibited and at what cost to whom?” (280, Levenduski 2005: 160)
“Who is allowed to make these decisions?” (280, Levenduski 2005: 160)
“Who gets to tell the stories about these artifacts?” (280, Levenduski 2005: 160)
“For what other reasons might they have been preserved? As merely historical documents? As evidence of an organic folk culture? Again, whose interests guide these decisions?” (281)
“Which particular local and regional artists come to be considered inferior to those who are nationally canonized”? (281)
A large number of science teachers in urban schools are not from urban backgrounds and struggle with a sense of not being able to teach in ways that are effective and meaningful to their students. Barton and Berchini note that such teachers, especially when they are new to the school, tend to position themselves as outsiders, which exacerbates disjunctions between them and their students. They recommend that teachers actively engage with place – the place where their students are: cultural, familial, etc. – in order to consciously reposition themselves as insiders. The authors recommend several pathways to achieve this with specific examples: (1) “Active Positioning” is when a teacher seeks knowledge from their students in relation to particular lessons and thereby positions his or herself as a learner about the students’ place (23); (2) “Critical Navigation…involves learning to draw upon the richness of experiences and resources in students’ lives while, at the same time, learning to challenge the oppressive narratives that may shape their lives” (24); and (3) “Symbolic Engagement with Place…incorporates two elements: (a) understanding students’ affective relationships with place and (b) challenging the relationships teachers, themselves, have with, and in place through, recognition of how these relationships symbolize broader values” (25).
This short article introduces the author’s twenty-year experience teaching a place-based literature curriculum in a small Nebraska high school. Bishop’s curriculum introduces students to regional literature by authors such as Willa Cather and writing on and visits to natural sites such as the Platte River, and requires students to interview family and community members as material for student writing.
Bishop enumerates several benefits to this kind of place-based curriculum. In her experience, students come to appreciate the value of the place where they live (in her case, small town life that seems “boring” to the students), the “wisdom and experience of elders in the community,” and the “aesthetic value” of the natural world around them and concern for issues such as “dwindling populations in the heartland” (67).
She concludes, “if students are allowed to learn how to care about a place and to care for it, they are more likely to consider living there and helping to solve its problems. A pride of place will also give them the necessary skills to live well in any community. Place-based learning, wherever that place is, teaches a sense of community and gives students a model for living well anywhere” (68-9).
This brief article explains what PBE is and demonstrates its efficacy through several examples of K-12 application in New England. Students learn lifelong learning skills, work with teachers and community members, learn to present findings, while also learning to standards. Black discusses the addition in Vermont’s education policy required components in sustainability and understanding place, but notes that not all educators are aware to the place component. She also reports on the Placebased Education Evaluation Coorperative (PEEC), a New England initiative that “strives to help schools…establish place-based learning as the core of the curriculum” (41). She concludes, “place-based learning has proven its value, but it requires persistent leadership to make it the core of your school and community” (42).
The authors report on a place-based component of teacher education at the University of South Australia. Pre-service science education teachers “were involved in a rich task, which aligned curriculum, pedagogy and assessment through spending time in an ecological urban setting on a volunteer basis” (41). Through a reflective digital narrative, the students shared their experience and applications of science knowledge and critical thinking. The authors report a high degree of enthusiasm among the students for this place-based approach and noted that a lasting effect on the students and their relationship to the community could be extrapolated from the fact that many of them continued volunteering well after graduating (45). The authors review basic literature on place-based education, noting that their experience substantiates the claims of PBE advocates. They recommend PBE for the following reasons: “the key characteristics of place-based education are that it is experiential, multidisplinary and intergenerational. It uses knowledge and skills in real-life situations, is authentically connected to student life worlds and builds a sense of ecological relationship” (45).
Greenwood (formerly, Gruenewald), David A. 'A Critical Pedagogy of Place: From Gridlock to Parallax.' Environmental Education Research 14.3 (Jun. 2008): 336–348. EBSCO. Web. 22 Sep. 2014.
These two articles were published in the same issue of Environmental Education Research. The first is Bowers’ critique of the Greenwood (formerly, Gruenwald) article presented in this bibliography – “The Best of Both Worlds: A Critical Pedagogy of Place” (2003) – and the second is Greenwood’s rebuttal.
For further discussion, see also Stevenson (2008) in this bibliography.
Bowers sharply criticizes Greenwood for uncritically adopting the assumptions of “social Darwinist” thinkers like Freire (and, he contends, in Dewey) that communities are helpless victims of “colonization” and have no internal traditions that provide modes of resistance and self-empowerment; rather, the critical pedagogue, in Bowers’ view, takes a paternalistic stance toward the community and the students, supported by Western philosophic assumptions about social evolution that insist on the “transformation” of communities and the “transformation” of students. In Bowers’ critique, critical pedagogy carries with it attitudes that do not value traditions of indigenous communities. Bowers emphasizes the importance of identifying and listening to “the cultural commons that exist in every community” (325). While Bowers recognizes that Greenwood’s approach differs from critical pedagogy’s paternalism by including the question “what do we conserve?” in a given community, Bowers suggests that this important addition is only cursory in Greenwood’s argument and was included only because of a lengthy phone conversation the two of them had while Greenwood was writing the paper. Bowers suggests that the inclusion of conservation of community traditions was given only cursory attention, if not mere lip service.
Greenwood’s response expresses dismay at Bowers’ unwillingness to collaborate with critical pedagogues when the mutually supportive qualities of both approaches are so apparent to Greenwood. He also accuses Bowers of a partial understanding of critical pedagogy and harboring long-standing and unhelpful biases against thinkers like Freire and McLaren. In his words, “my response to Bowers is this: replaying the critique of critical pedagogy distracts attention from a more creative exchange. What, for example, are the opportunistic connections that we might discover between place-based educators, science educators, environmental educators, critical pedagogues, and those who embrace the commons as the central construct for educational theory and practice?” (338).
See appendix to Greenwood’s article: “Sample queries for the developing [sic.] a place-based orientation to teaching and learning” (345-8).
Bruce and Bloch illustrate the strengths of PBE through the example of a community project that engaged students from a largely Puerto Rican school in Chicago in community gardening through which they learned principles of science, culture, economics, and history, as well as the value of seeking to understand, contribute to, and work in community. The authors don’t use the term place-based, but rather “community inquiry” to describe this type of learning experience. They define community inquiry as “inquiry conducted of, for, and by communities as social organisms. The inquiry is of the community because it is embedded in community situations, resources, and needs; it is for the community because it seeks to solve community problems (indeterminate situations); it is by the community, because it is enacted by community members” (28). They argue that this pedagogy is especially important today when our schools and colleges are essentially isolated from the community and learning is focused on standardized tests. Students are suffering from the same problems Dewey pointed out, a dissociation between the classroom and the real world. The authors draw upon the philosophy of pragmatism to undergird their approach, suggesting that community inquiry follow David Brendel’s four ‘p’ model: practical, pluralistic, participatory, and provisional. Their essential point is that all knowing is communal and that a pedagogy of community inquiry therefore immerses students in authentic study and both they and the community (which are really not separate entities) benefit.
The community inquiry project the authors describe is encapsulated in the phrase, “the community is the curriculum” (38). The authors prefer this to the idea of the community-as-lab because it suggests a tighter connection between the school/students and the community. Both are beneficiaries of the interaction. The project has three main goals: (1) “to learn about the world in a connected way”; (2) to impart to students a sense of responsible action in the world; and (3) “to give back to the community” and thereby help students “learn how their actions can transform the world” (38).
The following segment from the conclusion is worthy of quoting at length for its poignant description of our current education system and the promising advancements progressive reforms like PBE can make:
As we reflect on the goals of education today, it is important to move beyond limited measures such as standardized test scores, which offer broad summaries but tell us little about meaningful learning across the curriculum, the connection between schooling and life, the development of responsible citizenship, or the capacity to build a better world. For those goals we need a more comprehensive vision. A larger vision of education would conceive it as occurring through multiple institutions, with substantive connections among them. It would see a primary purpose to be supporting both individual and community growth. Moreover, the model of education would itself be organic, growing in response to human action, changing circumstances, and enlarged understandings. (41)
Cameron’s article traces the development of his theoretic approach to place through a journey from his native Australia to the US and UK to meet with renowned phenomenology scholars. Cameron was not new to phenomenology and place-based learning; he had in fact been writing about and teaching the subject for over a decade. His place-based course on “Sense of Place” involved a trip to the bush that immersed students in a natural setting for several days and directed them in recording their observations and reactions. Central to his course was his conviction that “place responsiveness is not just a valuable human quality to develop, it is part of the attitude shift that is urgently necessary for us to live within our ecological means on this continent” (175). His encounter with David Seamon is especially relevant to this bibliography. While non-experts were impressed with what Cameron was doing with his students and the enthusiastic responses captured in their journals, Seamon asked if he “was perhaps simply reinforcing the ‘natural attitude’” of his students: “David’s wry response was that students often mistake enthusiasm for genuine experience. Rather than report on close observation and insight into a phenomenon, they talk about their general enthusiasm for the subject, the latter being much easier to convey” (177). Cameron then began to question his methodology. “Was my cherished Sense of Place subject simply part of the same large unreflective process? Did it only reproduce the natural attitude of the students as they visited their chosen places and wrote about their enthusiasm and how they had changed? (178). This realization that he may not be equipping his “students with a sophisticated enough understanding” in order to “question the natural attitude and move into a ‘truer’ encounter” propelled him onto a journey into the phenomenological approaches inspired by Goethe.
Coughlin and Kirch’s response to van Eijck and Roth’s ethnography of SN̲ITȻEȽ/ Tod Inlet appears in the Forum of the same issue. The authors build on van Eijck and Roth’s view of place as chronotope by delving further into Bakhtin’s notion of heteroglossia and adding theories of transformative education by Paolo Freire and the nature of space by Henri Lefebvre. Lefebvre distinguishes between “physical space” and “social space,” theorizing the latter as a complex relationship between objects and products (912). Bakhtin sees all human interaction (with each other and with place) as dialogic interaction in a heteroglossia, and therefore similarly complex and contingent. “Freire described the ‘dimensionality’, or thickness, of time as one of the fundamentally important discoveries in the history of human culture. Humans (as distinguished from other creatures) have transcended living in the present moment and can ‘reach back to yesterday, recognize today, and come upon tomorrow’ and as they ‘free themselves from “today,” their relations with the world become impregnated with consequence’” (Freire 1973, p. 3–4) (915). The role of education in Freire’s well-known model is to “problematize,” for example, approaching time and place as “thick” constructs built out of perception and experience. The authors take this as the fundamental role and contribution of place-based education—to problematize our and our students’ understanding of place in order to transform that understanding. That transformation takes place in a process theorized by Stetsenko as “Becoming”: “‘Becoming’ is the process by which individuals come to understand and transform the world and themselves by contributing originally to the world (Stetsenko 2009); it is the expression of our individual and collective relationships in and of the world; it is the process of becoming fully human. With lives oriented toward Becoming, the process of teaching and learning becomes a mechanism for realizing this individual and collective transformation” (Stetsenko 2010) (917). PBE is well-suited to this task because of its ability to actively engage students with place, as long as, the authors remind us, we are careful to problematize the notion of place. They offer this concise description of PBE’s nature and aims: “what we mean by place-based education is an always co-evolving collaborative activity that makes salient the cultural, historical, political, economic, environmental, social, and physical aspects of what and how we teach” (917). They write, “the implications for place-based education are that students should be engaged and involved with learning the history of their place and critically examining how that history of place has been told and is constructed, by whom and for what purpose” (918).
Drawing on a variety of theorists and philosophers, most notably Walter Benjamin, Dobson argues that the urban experience is unique (from, e.g., the rural) and requires attention in the education of urbanites, particularly urban youth. He further argues for a place-based pedagogy, while not using that particular terminology. He theorizes the urban experience as made up of codes/signifiers, commodities, and other stimuli that educates the senses and requires attention. He takes Benjamin’s notion of the Flaneur as the model of urban education, and even suggests that an urban pedagogy center on the experience of walking on the streets and paying attention to commodity, stimuli, signifiers, codes in a conscious effort to attend to the education of the senses. The goal is not just awareness, but a critical and transformative one: if urban pedagogy “is to have more than a descriptive task limited to exposing and confirming existing codes in society, it must have additionally a political and emancipatory project: the breaking and making of new codes in an urban environment that reaches beyond the bounds of the classroom” (106).
Elfer’s dissertation explores the philosophical and pedagogical precedents of the PBE movement. He includes sections on Aristotle, Comenius, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Herbart, Parker, and Dewey. The development of nature studies and outdoor education (the Country Life Movement) in the 20th century and the New Geography that paved the way for the PBE approach comprise two major sections of the dissertation. What his study shows is that “the localized approach to teaching and learning” not only has ancient roots, but that it has repeatedly surfaced throughout the ages. “Rather than singular, vague instances, this study found clear illustrations of what modern observers would consider place-based educational strategies in the writings of virtually every foundational figure in Western educational thinking” (421). Moreover, Elfer found that localized learning methods surfaced in particular sociopolitical moments, “broader circumstances not directly tied to the work of educators and institutions alone” (432). PBE, he finds, developed in a climate of and perhaps in response to such developments as Academic formalism, with its “exclusive attention to the textbook, to tests, and to recitations…testing mechanisms…[and] standardization” (438-9). Responses “took on a variety of forms historically, from articulated courses of study to occasional supplements to the existing academic curriculum” (442). He notes, too, that current PBE practice comes as a response to perceived threats of globalization, but that in practice it tends to find a “local and global” sensibility. “This study found that an education that is exclusively based within local circumstances cannot easily address non-local issues directly. But the historical illustrations of place-based thinking presented here demonstrated that local learning was often transferable to non-local study. The local and the non-local were not mutually exclusive” (444). His study also addresses professional development for educators, multidisciplinarity in PBE practice, and institutional climate and acceptance/resistance to PBE.
The authors review the history of place-based education, noting that the principles behind PBE can be traced back several centuries and finds its strongest early formulation in the 20th century with Dewey and the formulation of outdoor education, whereas PBE as a concerted academic approach is more recent. After reviewing the body of research on PBE, the authors look at applications to social studies and list a variety social studies projects as examples. (Note: The article is perhaps a translation into English and is in need editing.)
“With ‘community’ in their name, it is imperative that community colleges own and extend the idea of place in their curricula” (294). The authors explore the importance of place in relation to the mission of the community college and review literature on service-learning that emphasizes a sense of place. They offer examples from their respective colleges, Evenbeck and Dalpes from Guttman Community College in New York City and Merians from Holyoke Community College in western Massachusetts, to show how place can be incorporated in a college through service learning, but, in the case of Guttman, also through curricular means. In their literature review, the authors quote from the 2002 American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ report, Stepping Forward of Stewards of Place:
While the demands of the economy and society have forced institutions to be nationally and globally aware, the fact remains that state colleges and universities are inextricably linked with the communities and regions in which they are located. Exercising “stewardship of place” does not mean limiting the institution’s worldview; rather, it means pursuing that worldview in a way that has meaning to the institution’s neighbors, who can be its most consistent and reliable advocates. (AASCU 2002, 9; 289)
The authors discuss MOOCs and Bill Gates’ assertion that “colleges need to be less place-based” (289). They suggest that new technologies for course delivery offer new pathways and opportunities, but that place-based efforts such as service learning “will continue to play a more central and crucial role in learning at many of our community colleges” (290).
Fettes and Judson combine the theory of imaginative education developed by Kiernan Egan with place-conscious approaches to recommend what may be called an imaginative place-based pedagogy. They begin with a brief review of PBE, drawing on Gruenewald, Ardoin, Sobel, and others to present the power of place “as a key concept in the theories of the middle ground, between individual experience and social-ecological context” (123). Just as place tends to be excluded from educational theory and praxis, so the imagination is eschewed in our emphasis on knowledge and skills. The authors present a condensed version of Egan’s views, showing that the “tools” of imagination (somatic, mythic, romantic, philosophic, and ironic) are central to cognitive development. Since, as Egan has argued based on studies by psychologist Lev Vygotsky, “imagination develops by acquiring and mastering ‘cultural tools’ from the social environment” (126), Fettes and Judson see a strong correlation between imaginative education and PBE. They point out that salient aspects of what we now know about imagination can be located in “three features of place-making—emotional engagement, active cognition, and a sense of possibility” (125). Further, they show that Egan’s “cognitive tools,” which Fettes and Judson suggest can be understood as “imaginative tools” (127), can be directly correlated to place, as follows:
Somatic: becoming familiar with the sights, sounds, odors of the place, with different ways of moving through it, with its moods in different weathers and at different times of day, and so on;
Mythic: learning to talk about the place, with its characteristic names and qualities, its founding stories, its contrasts (e.g., beautiful/ugly, quiet/noisy, safe/dangerous), its songs, jokes, and iconic images;
Romantic: coming to know the tapestry of human meaning woven with the place, its heroes and villains, extraordinary events, peculiarities and specialties, its games and festivals;
Philosophic: uncovering the place’s relationship with other places, the ways it conforms to or stands out from established patterns, the sweep of its natural history, geography, demographics, economy;
Ironic: coming to grips with the diversity of experiences and perspectives available for understanding the place, from inside and outside alike, and locating oneself within them. (128)
The authors then elaborate on what Fettes (2010) refers to as “tools of imaginative engagement (TIEs)” (127) and show how TIEs can effectively be linked to place in two specific pedagogical approaches based on British Columbia educational standards in science and in social studies.
The authors review and agree with the aims of PBE, with reference to various theorists such as Gruenewald, Ball, and Lai, stating that through PBE “students are encouraged to examine and respond to the needs of their communities while gaining understanding of how local institutions function and social relationships shape experiences of privileged and marginalized groups” (138). It is in the area of privilege that they aim their argument, advocating for a place-based pedagogy that addresses notions of Whiteness. The authors draw attention to “the persistence of multicultural education focusing primarily on the education of so-called minorities at the expense of a robust and critical examination of the role of Whiteness in shaping the educational institutions, pedagogies, and practices” (139). To do this, the authors say we must move beyond concepts of “location and labor” in PBE and focus on “historical-spatial identity—specifically meaning making and identity” (139). This requires the disruption of our linguistic markers for place, our monolithic and romantic notions of place.
Conceptual foundations of “place” and, therefore, “place-based education” are murky, thus leading to an unchecked eclecticism in place-based education and the misunderstanding of educational problems. Researchers and curriculum analysts rightly ask what is “place?” In this article we have pressed several points. First, definitions of place-based education have been little more than definitions of location that belie the social, cultural, economic diversity that characterizes places. Second, schooling, in policy and practice, is fundamentally indistinguishable from community due to specific historical contingencies in the provision of mass schooling. Third, when these two features are taken into consideration, current conceptions of education do not account for the diversity (and lack thereof) in schools and its impact on student identity. Fourth, in response to this problem we propose to outline a conceptual framework of place-based education for educational research that moves beyond location and focuses on historical identity—specifically new ways to see diversity. (144)
This new conceptual framework centers on the project of Whiteness Studies, wherein Whiteness receives the kinds of critical attention that multiculturalism has placed on minorities. Critical investigations of White privilege and hegemony are, the authors maintain, directly related to place in the ways spaces are marked racially through segregation. The authors argue that these critical notions of place should be central to place-based pedagogy.
Ford writes in response to Ruitenberg’s (2005) deconstruction-inspired article proposing a “radical place-based pedagogy.” She raises three “quandaries” in Ruitenberg’s argument. First, while Ruitenberg states that she is deconstructing PBE theories forwarded by Orr, Smith, Theobald and others in order to “save the baby in the bathwater,” Ford wonders what exactly is being saved. In short, Ford suggests that Ruitenberg is deconstructing more than terms critical to PBE – namely, experience, locality, and community; she is deconstructing the project itself. Second, Ford raises a problem with deconstruction itself, or at least with Ruitenberg’s particular employment of the method, and this is the quandary of limits. She asks “how deconstruction establishes itself with respect to the multiplicity of the narratives of community and the normative and metaphysical constellations of thought represented in those narratives?” (222). She suggests that Ruitenberg’s project lacks a sense of “self transparency,” or cognizance of her own “pretence of innocence” (223). She wonders “how Ruitenberg’s narratives of deconstruction address the normative and political limits of their mode of address” (223). Third, Ford questions the “conditions of possibility” inherent in Ruitenberg’s approach and even in her own (i.e. in Ford’s) own response to it (223). Echoing Foucault, she asks, “what are the current dangers here as we, two presenters [both Euro-Canadian, tenure seeking philosophy professors], ally ourselves with a normative framework characterized by its emphasis on multiplicity, instability, and political salience” (223).
Goodson and Skillen report on their implementation of the Rural Voices Project and describe its successes. The project began with the class listening to and commenting on podcasts produced by other students throughout the country and then developing their own ideas for stories about their lives. The students showed markedly increased motivation and commitment to writing, results the authors attribute to the fact that the projects would be published on the internet and available to a wide audience and to the fact that the podcast format embraced current trends in social media and technology. Many of the stories explored the students’ experiences with and impressions with their community.
While the context of this article is environmental education and the field of ethics, the argument for attention to emotion and relationships in the learning experience has implications for other subjects and for PBE in general. The authors provide a summary of recent research on emotion as it relates to cognitive development, showing that emotion “impacts attention, focus, and memory” (415). A well-constructed place-based project or field trip can provide an “emotional hook” to engage students in learning and to build social relationships that enhance learning.
The authors state that “including an emotional component in ethics learning runs contrary to most traditional academic approaches to philosophical education; coursework in ethics is often theoretical and not applied. Developing a theoretical understanding of environmental problems is an important goal, but deepening students’ involvement with the ideas by adding an affective, as well as this cognitive, emphasis is also important to empower students to apply their environmental ethics knowledge. Experiential learning, with its embrace of emotion as an integral piece of the learning process, can help develop the emotional maturity necessary for ethical decision-making in context” (Johnson & Frederickson, 2000) (416).
The article also offers a brief discussion of field trips as an effective application of experiential learning. Field trips “integrate place-based experiential education into the traditional higher education classroom,” provides a kind of laboratory for learning (which humanities and social science instruction often lacks), creates connections between the theoretical and text-based learning of the classroom and the outside world in the local community, provides a context to test and internalize class material by giving it “pragmatic strength,” and offers excellent material for students to contemplate in reflective journals and other writing assignments (423). The authors conclude, “when beyond-campus places become the spaces for learning, then also the backdrop for students’ beyond-academic life, the two worlds of school and life begin to inform each other. Blending these boundaries can also soften other dualisms and create the room for relationships to develop with people, place, and content. These experiences, then, can help students make the leap from relationship to responsibility” (424).
Gradle presents a pedagogy of place in art education that utilizes performance art projects on place to critically engage students in a contemplation of place. She believes this approach is important because “The lack of a sense of place—of belonging or attachment—is often a serious by-product of transnational migration, of increased economic and social mobility, and of the pervasive characteristics of a homogenous consumer-scape” (392). In terms of education and art pedagogy, she asks these questions as central to her article: “How can changes in education counteract a growing sense of placelessness (Relph, 1976)? Can teacher education in the arts address the disquieting realization that students feel displaced by the inauthentic, theme-park appearance (Kunstler, 1996) of communities that offer little to feed the imagination?” And “can we envision education, and in particular art education, in a manner that enlarges and deepens a sense of place as being one of connections, complements, and distinctions, whether it be with the natural world, in the human domain, or with the built environment?” (392). Gradle grounds her discussion in a wide-ranging review of philosophical, anthropological, ecological, and phenomenological texts on the topic of place, noting specifically the salience of Edward Casey’s argument that human beings are “ineluctably place-bound,” that we are “not only in places but of them” (394). She then offers descriptions of several student projects that resulted from her place-based performance art project and comments on them. Among several lessons drawn from this study, Gradle notes that “as we expand and deepen awareness, it will be critical to develop a capacity in learners to conceptualize patterns of relating, to think about contexts, to become grounded in the local as well as the global, to feel emplaced to the extent that knowledge will lead to purposeful artistic response” (407, italics in original).
Graham adopts Gruenewald’s view of melding PBE and Critical Pedagogy and, as the title suggests, advocates for a critical place-based pedagogy in art education that specifically examines local ecology. Graham reviews the state of education in the US with reference to a variety of scholars, noting its emphasis on standardization, test knowledge, and underlying assumptions about the national and global economy that are apathetic, even hostile, toward environmental issues. He adds to this commentary the neglect of Art Education, one of several disciplines that are not included in standardized testing and curriculum. Drawing on Gruenewald’s Critical PBE approach, Graham recommends a place-based approach to contemporary art that emphasizes the local environment. In his view, contemporary art is especially valuable in this approach because “contemporary artists raise provocative questions about nature, community, and culture that reflect the complex character of our relationship with the natural world. The work of these artists often has connections to the peculiarities of specific places and is attentive to the web of relationships that constitute local culture and ecology. Their work makes ecological relationships comprehensible in a way that can be a catalyst for awareness and consequently change” (376). Graham relates several examples of this pedagogy that includes cultural mapping and cultural journals and visits to natural landscapes and to art museums. He also advocates for visual culture art education with a critical PBE approach.
Graham notes several obstacles to critical PBE, most notably student resistance to the critical method and indifference to the local, especially given the power of the global media to attract their attentions and allegiances. Teacher enthusiasm for the subject and approach may not be enough to overcome these obstacles. He suggests that these obstacles can be overcome when teachers embrace PBE’s student-centered model: “one approach to confronting these obstacles is a curriculum that is responsive to the interests and experiences of the students and emerges from possibilities inherent in local natural and human communities. Students are expected to become creators of knowledge and there is a negotiation of content, where the teacher plays the part of an informed guide and facilitator (Smith, 2002). Teachers pay attention to students’ questions, interests and to the artifacts of local cultural production so that curriculum emerges from the unique characteristics of the place where they live (Ball & Lai, 2006; Wilson, 2003)” (386).
Graham begins with a succinct description of the issues PBE can address: “In contemporary life, community is often fractured, the natural world is taken for granted, and children sometimes feel more connected to television characters than to their own families. The natural world is depicted as an object of consumption where places are owned, used up, and discarded” (12). He claims that PBE “aims to counter the restless separation of people from the land and their communities by grounding learning in local phenomena and students’ experiences” (13). Noting that art education is especially rich in locating the sacred, the rural, the urban, and more, Graham describes how place-based art education brings students into contact with the local in transformative ways. He reports on an art-making project in a Long Island school that illustrates these points. “The exploration of our relationship with the places where we live was the starting point for our artistic experiment. We set out to discover the aesthetics and metaphorical richness of these places” (13). The project involved student inquiry, site exploration (e.g graveyards, natural landscapes, urban areas, shore line), study and discussion of artwork by regional painters and photographers, journaling and sketching, photography, etc. Students created collages from their photographs and drawings that “gradually grew into paintings” (15). The culmination of the experience was an exhibition produced from their discussions and artwork that shared their new sense of place with the rest of the school and the community. Graham concludes with these reflections on the experience: “History and community endures in places and shapes our identity. I started with the idea that artmaking could be a social enterprise that has a connection to the communities around it. I wanted to move from the important but limited notion of art being solely about personal expression toward a vision of teaching that could engage students in a reflective and social process with the larger community. In the process, we became a mirror for and inspiration to people around us” (18).
See Bowers 2008.
Gruenewald, David A. “Foundations of Place: A Multidisciplinary Framework for Place-Conscious Education.” American Educational Research Journal 40.3 (2003): 619-654. JSTOR. Web. 26 Sep. 2014.
A key article for discussing place-based pedagogy at the higher education level and beyond ecological frameworks, “Foundations of Place” reviews the philosophy of place, investigating several critical methods including phenomenology, social theory, and critical geography, and applying these philosophies to pedagogies that center on place. Gruenewald argues that both traditional pedagogy and trends toward standardization contribute to an educational system that ignores the local surroundings and community and thereby produces a citizenry that is uncritical of and disengaged from their physical surroundings. According to him, “Place-conscious education […] aims to work against the isolation of schooling’s discourses and practices from the living world outside the increasingly placeless institution of schooling. Furthermore, it aims to enlist teachers and students in the firsthand experience of local life and in the political process of understanding and shaping what happens there” (620).
The section “Pedagogies of Place” is most relevant to the topic of this bibliography. Here, Gruenewald shows how these pedagogies of place are applied in Natural History, Cultural Journalism (or, “local history”), and Action Research. The segment on Cultural Journalism emphasizes that place-based education is as fruitfully applied to cultural studies as it is to ecology. Just as engaging students with the natural environment produces more ecologically minded citizens, engaging students in the culture of their community produces more civically minded citizens. This pedagogical approach allows instructors to direct students in a critical assessment of their immediate surroundings to put into practice modes of enquiry and to achieve learning objectives central to the subject of study. According to Gruenewald, “as the physical (and psychological) landscape becomes increasingly privatized and reflective of problematic ideological commitments (i.e., global capitalism), paying attention to the presence of public and private places can help raise consciousness about the political process that works to shape cultural space. Teachers and students might ask: What is the function of private and public space in our community? How has it changed over time? What political commitments guide the use of space? Who or what benefits from the way our community uses space, and who or what does not?” (639).
Gruenewald discusses the relevance of place-conscious pedagogy to the functioning of democracy. In his argument, the equality that is sought by school reform efforts (e.g. charter schools) is admirable and desirable, but it is ultimately unattainable if we continue to value standardization over particular situatedness and globalization over localization. Democracy, he insists, is best taught through guided interaction with place. In the conclusion to his essay, Gruenewald writes that “learning to listen to what places are telling us—and to respond as informed, engaged citizens—this is the pedagogical challenge of place-conscious education. Places are fundamentally pedagogical because they are contexts for human perception and for participation with the phenomenal, ecological, and cultural world. What we know is, in large part, shaped by the kinds of places we experience and the quality of attention we give them.”
This much-cited article sparked some controversy when C. A. Bowers, a major scholar in the conservation field, published an article (Bowers, 2008) critical of Gruenewald’s approach and Gruenewald (2008) wrote a response (see entries in this bibliography). Gruenewald’s project in this paper is to find common ground between place-based pedagogies and the tenets of critical pedagogies theorized and espoused by Freire, McLaren, Giroux, and others. The melding of place-based education with critical pedagogy is especially relevant to this bibliography because of its immediate bearing on higher education and because of its application to subjects outside of ecology and environmental studies and to urban socio-political space. According to Gruenewald, “one result of these primarily ecological and rural associations has been that place-based education is frequently discussed at a distance from the urban, multicultural arena, territory most often claimed by critical pedagogues” (3). Critical pedagogy’s emphasis on the transformative potential of engaging students in critiques of power structures in (usually urban) society complements place-based education’s aim to immerse students into critical reflection and investigation of their surroundings. This, we might add, is an application well-suited to the level of critical engagement expected in higher education.
The article presents a summary of Critical Pedagogy theory, reminding the reader that “the leaders of the movement, including Freire, Giroux, and McLaren, insist that education is always political, and that educators and students should become ‘transformative intellectuals’ (Giroux, 1988), ‘cultural workers’ (Freire, 1998) capable of identifying and redressing the injustices, inequalities, and myths of an often oppressive world”(4). According the Gruenewald, place-based education is ideal for the application of Critical Pedagogy because it immerses students in the real-world dynamics of their surrounding community, and is especially powerful for schools in urban, multicultural settings and suburbs. He makes the point that “places are social constructions filled with ideologies, and the experience of places, such as the Black inner city or the White suburbs, shapes cultural identities” (5). This is not to say that Gruenewald suggest leaving ecology to the rural schools; his argument is for a “critical pedagogy of place” that incorporates both critical pedagogy’s emphasis on the socio-economic, socio-political structure of power in a community and place-based pedagogy’s emphasis on the environment. Gruenewald writes, “educational theory that synthesizes ecological and social justice concerns is, however, still in an early stage of development. Significant tensions between socially critical positions like Haymes’ (1995) and ecologically critical positions like Bowers’ (2001) remain unresolved. If, for example, the environmental crisis cannot be solved without social justice, then ecological educators and critical pedagogues must build an educational framework that interrogates the intersection between urbanization, racism, classism, sexism, environmentalism, global economics, and other political themes” (6). Gruenewald therefore sees the opportunity for a mutually beneficial synthesis between these two pedagogies that would more completely address the issues facing urban communities than either pedagogy could on its own.
While Gruenewald maintains that place-based pedagogy’s typical emphasis on ecology would be a significant addition to critical pedagogy, he is not suggesting that this is the only, or even the primary, contribution place-based pedagogy offers to critical pedagogy. Rather, it is place-based pedagogy’s effectiveness in critically engaging students in place, in, to use critical pedagogy’s terminology, their “situatedness,” that the two pedagogies find kindred spirits and mutual benefits. “A critical pedagogy of place embraces the link between the classroom and cultural politics, and further, it explicitly makes the limits and simulations of the classroom problematic. It insists that students and teachers actually experience and interrogate the places outside of school—as part of the school curriculum—that are the local context of shared cultural politics”(9).
Employing the terminology of critical pedagogy, Gruenewald argues that a critical pedagogy of place should encourage students to examine the structures of power in their community in order to “decolonize” spaces that are circumscribed by political, commercial, and social forces empowered by racism, sexism, classism, and other hierarchical assumptions. What he adds by way of place-based pedagogy is a critical emphasis on “reinhabitation.” Gruenewald explains, “reinhabitation is a major focus in ecological place-based education, especially in its expression as bioregionalism (McGinnis, 1999; Sale, 1985; Traina & Darley-Hill, 1995). Bioregionalist pioneers Berg and Dasmann (1990) define reinhabitation as “learning to live-in-place in an area that has been disrupted and injured through past exploitation” (9). Significantly, discussions of reinhabitation should, Gruenewald maintains, consider what must be conserved in a community.
In order to develop an intense consciousness of places that can lead to ecological understanding and informed political action, place-based educators insist that teachers and children must regularly spend time out-of-doors building long-term relationships with familiar, everyday places. The kinds of educative experiences students and teachers pursue depends on the distinctive characteristics of the places they inhabit, as well as on what learning objectives and strategies they employ. Sobel (1996) describes a developmental framework for place-based curriculum that begins with fostering empathy for the familiar, moves out toward exploration of the home range, and leads to social action and reinhabitation. Though designed for ecological contexts, Sobel’s framework might also apply to the problematic social environments that are typically the concern of critical pedagogues. Where in a community, for example, might students and teachers witness and develop forms of empathetic connection with other human beings? How might these connections lead to exploration, inquiry, and social action? (8)
Gruenewald’s article discusses the importance of introducing students to ecological and social issues in ways that will not traumatize or paralyze them. He notes that presenting students with impending ecological or social disaster can have this effect if the instructor is not sensitive to student development. “In Beyond Ecophobia, Sobel (1996) warns against the ‘premature abstraction’ often used to address out-of-reach global crises such as exotic species extinction, rainforest destruction, acid rain, and global warming. The idea here is not that educators should avoid the realities of these human-created crises, but that we should pursue pedagogical strategies that honor a learner’s developmental readiness for engaging with complex ecological themes” (7).
In sum, Gruenewald’s article argues that “a critical pedagogy of place aims to (a) identify, recover, and create material spaces and places that teach us how to live well in our total environments (reinhabitation); and (b) identify and change ways of thinking that injure and exploit other people and places (decolonization)” (9).
This edited volume situates the place-based movement in opposition to globalizing economic, social, and political forces that the editors claim are threatening local diversity and vitality and to the current educational praxis of standardized curriculum, decontextualized learning, and high-stakes testing. The authors argue in their Afterword that PBE is not a panacea to these problems, but that it has the potential to make a difference by training young people in real-world, local contexts: “Young people who have developed a sense of connection to place and community will be more likely to invest their intelligence and energy in efforts to restore and preserve that which is necessary to support their lives” (356). The editors set out to accomplish two aims: (1) to provide examples of PBE in action that can inspire educators to put place-based methods into action, and (2) to present PBE as a “counterpart of a broader movement toward reclaiming the significance of the local in the global age” (xiii). The editors see PBE’s emphasis on “collective effort,” appreciation of codependence, and “the diversity within places and the diversity between places” as a counter to the trends of our global age (xx-xxi). The essays are by educators and scholars who have significant experience in the practice of place-based pedagogy, and some are prominent scholars in the field.
The first grouping of essays is entitled “Models for Place-Based Learning” and contains practical examples of place-based courses and programs in various parts of the country, including rural and urban contexts. These examples are in K-12 contexts or to university programs for teacher training, but many, if not all, can be adapted to higher education settings. Clifford E. Knapp’s essay offers a brief review of PBE, situating its origins before the establishment of formal schooling (6). An excellent example of urban activism and renewal through PBE can be found in Elaine Senechal’s essay on her experiences in a Boston suburb. Noting that “poor communities and communities of color have often been the dumping grounds for environmental problems that more affluent, and mostly White, communities ‘do not want in my backyard’” (87), Senechal shows how a PBE approach transformed a group of students into community activists who inspired actual change in their community. She and others explore not only the transformations of students, but also the practical aspects of incorporating PBE methods. For example, she writes, “this type of teaching is far removed from ‘teaching from the text.’ I have to find resources and develop lessons using many sources. It requires flexibility and creativity. It also constantly changes. The issues and tasks of one year may not be the same the next year” (101).
Part two of the volume is called “Reclaiming Broader Meanings of Education” and includes essays by prominent PBE scholars Gruenewald and Paul Theobald. Gruenewald focuses on “grounding culturally responsive teaching in geographical diversity,” expanding on both the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ (137). He argues that schools lack diversity from a plethora of perspectives: “structural, organizational, temporal, spatial, architectural, cultural, intellectual, and ecological”: he says, “this fundamental lack of diversity, the isolated, regulated, and narrow nature of schooling, its disconnection from and disregard for community life—these are issues that critical educators need to take seriously” (142, emphasis in original). A place-based educational method is foundational to addressing this lack of diversity. His contention is that “place” is central to a reclaiming of diversity and “the idea of relationship and interdependence” (147). This is for several reasons: “A focus on the lived experience of place puts culture in context, demonstrates the interconnection of culture and environment, and provides a locally relevant pathway for multidisciplinary inquiry and democratic participation.” Theobald and John Siskar’s essay is another notable contribution in this section. “Place: Where Diversity and Community Converge” critically analyzes the terms “diversity” and “community,” showing how the terms are often put at odds but are in fact complementary when situated in “place.” In this regard, the authors offer a useful discussion of place-based versus community-based as labels for this pedagogy. They offer a number of reasons for their preference for the label “place-based,” with this fundamental fact at the core: “the full range of an individual’s humanity will unfold someplace, whether or not we would choose to call that place a community. That place then becomes a kind of stage on which political, social, economic, educational, and religious lives become manifest” (198). Basing their argument on a discussion of educational and democratic history in the US more fully-fleshed out in Theobald (2006), Theobald and Siskar make these essential points: “diversity and community are intimately connected” and “the great public project facing the United States in the 21st century is a concerted effort at the mutual development of each,” and, moreover, that “schools have a huge role to play in this endeavor” (200). Place-based education, they argue, is the pedagogical methodology best suited to realize these aims.
The final section of the volume is called “Global Visions of the Local in Higher Education.” While this seems to be the ideal grouping of essays for this bibliography on PBE in higher education, the essays are not as instructive to higher education as one might wish. Three of the four essays are on teacher training in colleges or institutes of education. These essays are instructive in that they offer ways of envisioning PBE with adult learners, but they are aimed at preparing teachers to enact place-based methods in K-12 contexts. The essay by John Cameron discusses developments in his course on place consciousness in Australia (see also Cameron 2005).
This article makes the case for melding PBE with social history, and reports on a grant-supported faculty development project in Washington called “Our Place in History.” The authors briefly review the development of PBE, calling it a significant recent movement with roots in and parallels to a variety of progressive education traditions. In a concise statement, the authors summarize the attraction of PBE thus: “place-based educators generally embrace the pedagogy for two related reasons: enhanced learning about specific content, and enhanced opportunities to contribute to the well-being of communities” (234). The authors then offer a brief summary of the development of social history within the discipline of history, cataloguing the transformation from the pre-1950s preoccupation with great men and great movements to a more democratically inspired emphasis on common people and common events fuelled by the GI Bill’s infusion of a more diverse population into American colleges and universities. The authors argue that PBE and social history are a natural fit, providing examples from the faculty development experience provided by their project “Our Place in History.” The article describes the project and offers examples of work produced through it that illustrates community-based social history at work.
The authors report on a study they conducted of PBE in relation to mandated teaching standards in Vermont. The study aimed to answer the question posed in the article’s title, namely, are mandated education standards in fact antithetical and inimical to the teaching of place, as many PBE advocates claim? The authors give a history of the Vermont standards, noting that the first version of Vermont’s Frameworks of Standards and Learning Opportunities was adopted by the Vermont board of education in 1996 (52) and included, thanks to advocacy by supporters of PBE and environmental education, requirements for the inclusion of “Sustainabilty” and “Understanding Place” in Vermont public education (54). Through interviews with teachers (practitioners), surveys, and other means, the authors discovered that a large portion of Vermont teachers were employing PBE methodology, even though there was variance, both in terminology and practice, on what practitioners believe constitutes PBE methodology. The authors also discovered that a surprisingly small number of practitioners were aware that PBE was included in the state standards. The authors conclude that standards-based reforms are not necessarily antithetical to PBE. The authors state, “In both the teacher survey and interviews we found no examples of practitioners saying that Vermont’s frameworks stood in the way of their attempts to incorporate place-based education in their classroom practices. In fact, for Vermont practitioners, the state’s curriculum framework—not just the two place-based standards—helped legitimize place-based curriculum and protect the prominent status of these units in the general school curriculum” (62). Thus, the authors conclude that “no conflict between standards and place-based education was evident at the policy level and in the classroom in our research thus far. This study suggests that the conflict between standards and place-based curriculum may be more rhetorical than real” (63). Finally, they express the hope that these findings will direct efforts away from what is likely an unfounded and unconstructive antagonism between standards and PBE and toward a strategy of utilizing adopted standards “to institutionalize and enhance place-based curriculum” (63).
Kinloch’s article charts the growing political and educational awareness of a black youth named Phillip from Harlem High School while conducting a personal video project on the gentrification of his neighborhood. The article does not present a methodology for place-based education since what takes place in Phillip’s experience is not only outside classroom work, but, to his mind, at odds with his classroom experience. In his words, “I’m thinking I learn more from community…than from school” (321), and , “when I’m in school completing assignments, I know what to do. The thing is, I don’t feel connected to it because the work isn’t presented in a way that makes me think I’m part of it. I’m supposed to sit there, listen, act like a machine. That’s not right” (333). Phillip is uninterested in the education he is receiving in the classroom, but as he works on this project in his community, he grows in ways that a student ought to grow – not only in his videography and journal writing skills, but in a philosophy of self and community, a critical approach to economics and race, and in a sense of his own identity. For Kinoch, “the article is guided by the following inquiries: In what ways can youth utilize a qualitative inquiry approach (i.e., writing, videotaping, interviewing) to engage literacy as a practice in place-making? How can a focus on literacy and gentrification in an urban community contribute to other investigations into place-making? What are the implications of this work for teaching and teacher education?” (319).
The implications are seemingly abundant. What Kinoch demonstrates is that place-based education, if adopted as a teaching methodology, can be a powerful model for education in urban settings and with urban youth. Urban communities naturally present issues of power, race, economics, architecture, government, history and more that can engage students because they are relevant to their lives. In Phillip’s experience, this kind of teaching approach was missing from his education. “While he has lived in the area his entire life, Phillip admitted that he had never considered the value of narrating stories of change within his neighborhood, documenting historic community artifacts, and using a video camera to help him contest positions and perspectives that favored the gentrification of urban areas. Nor did he have reason to: ‘Why can’t something like this be part of class work? We [students] can help teachers come up with projects that take us in the community. Well, is there reason to when we don’t talk about out there in here?’” (325). Kinoch’s article suggests that we would do well as educators to engage students with the “out there.” On the other hand, this community-based enquiry is not just a matter of immersing students in what they already know. What Kinoch discovered with Phillip is that his project disrupted the way he originally viewed his community; it “encouraged him to resee the familiar landscape of Harlem as a space to engage in critical conversations that involve community changes (e.g., increased rent, renovated apartments, displacement) as well as practices in literacy (e.g., keeping a journal, listening to stories, interviewing people)” (328). Finally, through this experience, Phillip became interested in collaborating with others to find solutions to the problems he was critiquing. He experienced a renewed vision for his community and a desire to be part of the solution.
Following Gruenewald (2003), Kitchens argues that our current educational practice is a “pedagogy of placelessness,” by which he means that standardized testing, the emphasis on learning universal knowledge and facts, and textbook learning remove a sense of place and placedness from education. Kitchens references Gruenewald at length, as well as Dewey, Freire, and others to argue for a placed-based pedagogy, but he uses the term Situated Pedagogy rather than PBE. It is unclear whether Kitchens prefers this terminology for philosophical reasons or in order to trace a connection between PBE and the Situationist International movement of the mid-twentieth century. In tracing this pedigree, Kitchens provides a philosophical link to the SI movement that is instructive historically, but he emphasizes that SI as practiced by Guy Debord and others is associated with a (often belligerently) radical movement and should therefore be approached with caution when tracing this kind of lineage to a pedagogical movement. He summarizes the thrust of his argument in his concluding paragraph as such: “By situating education in the space of local communities, and by connecting the curriculum to the everyday life of students, situated pedagogy allows students to take part in the production of a conversation that creates new understandings of the world and their place in it, and, furthermore, how they chose to act in it…Students read the world, experiencing living landscapes, and decode those politically, socially, historically, and aesthetically, participating in a remapping of those landscapes. A situated pedagogy attends to specific places and localities, but not merely as places for discursive analysis and academic study, but as the spaces for action, intervention, and perhaps transformation” (259). This description shares much in common with descriptions of PBE, especially the critical pedagogy of place espoused by Gruenewald.
The essential aim of Knapp’s article is to bring environmentalist writer Aldo Leopold into the PBE landscape, stating his conviction that were Leopold alive today, “he would be speaking, writing, and teaching about place-based education” (284). Knapp identifies PBE as a young movement in education that has roots in outdoor education and Dewey, but even further back, in Comenius (1592-1670), who stated that “knowledge of the nearest things should be acquired first, then that of those farther and farther off” (Calkins, 1868, p. 242) (279). He reviews the essential components of PBE stated by Gregory Smith (2002) and then shows how Leopold’s writings provide further instruction for PBE practitioners (it should be noted that Knapp’s emphasis is on environmental education). Knapp gleans ten activities and attitudes from Leopold’s writings that are congruent with Buber’s “I-Thou” relationship of the individual to the natural world (“I-Thou” is an intimate relationship, whereas “I-It” configures the natural world as other or object) and that contribute to a sound PBE practice: wondering and questioning; knowing local history; observing seasonal changes; listening intently; counting and measuring; empathizing with and personifying nature; connecting elements in cycles; finding beauty; seeking solitude for reflection; and improving land health (281-283).
Lim builds on van Eijck and Roth’s discussion of chronotope using their case study and two of her own as examples, but she also builds in several other theories to establish the necessity of “history of place” and “place identity” in PBE. In particular she reviews Relph’s (1976) triad of place: “physical setting, human activities, and meanings” (900-1) and ideas from Gustafson (2001), Matthews (1992), and Moore and Young (1978) that identify the social (location of community relationships and cultural values), physiographic (“physical properties of place), and psychological dimensions of place (the psychical or identity relation to place) (901). From Proshansky et al. (1978, 1983, and 1987) she draws the historical dimension of place and a definition for “place identity”: “memories, ideas, feelings, attitudes, values, preferences, meanings, and conceptions of behavior and experience which relate to the variety and complexity of physical settings that define the day-to-day existence of every human being” (901). Place identity is thus how individuals relate to a place, especially the place where they live – whether they have positive or negative feelings toward it and see themselves as belonging. “When the place is compatible with one’s place identity, the place can offer satisfying and meaningful experiences for the person that in return reinforce the person’s place identity. However, when the place is in conflict with the person’s place identity, the place can act to limit the person’s meaningful and satisfying place experiences” (Proshansky et al. 1983) (902). Taking these theories into account, Lim discusses the necessity of a full consideration of “place” in the practice of PBE. In her discussions of particular cases of youth in the urban environment of New York City, she takes into account the various particularities, including place identity, but particularly emphasizes the historical consideration: “place-based education should approach our students’ places with historical consideration which allows us to recognize and acknowledge multiple place histories of students… the process. What counts is not just the history of ‘here and now’ but multiple histories of ‘then and there’ and how the histories connect. In short, historical consideration acknowledges multiplicity and marginalization in a place, thus. in turn, [sic.] offers legitimacy, rights, and responsibility for everyone to be invited to participate in creating the place.” (905). Along with van Eijck and Roth, Lim argues for a multi-faceted, dialogic view of place as chronotope.
She concludes with a statement on place identity and its malleability. “Place identity is not static. Place identity (individual and collective) shifts as we position and reposition ourselves within multiple contexts of place. This becomes a critical notion, especially given that we are positioned amid the multiplicity of histories and narratives within ever shifting various contexts of place. Place-based education should be able to support our efforts to move forward in a place. It should invite multiple histories and voices into creating a place and to engage in dialogues to dwell together” (908).
Lowenstein et al. argue for the necessity for EcoJustice education and for the efficacy of an inquiry-based, community-based approach. According to the authors, “Community-based learning (also referred to as community-based education in this article) within an EcoJustice Education framework thus engages students in (1) identifying serious problems in their communities, (2) analyzing the roots of those problems in larger socio-economic and cultural systems, and (3) creating localized, healthy relationships with mentors and with each other in the context of our immediate ecosystems” (103). They claim that establishing a sense of “place-consciousness” among students is not sufficient to challenge student beliefs and behaviors. “EcoJustice Education offers the framework that asks students to perform deep cultural analysis of the root issues that got us so far from our immediate communities in the first place. What these educational practices create is an approach to pedagogy and curriculum that asks teachers to make relevant the places, people, living creatures, and ecosystems that students are an embedded part of and to help them to make visible the undisputable harm done when we do not acknowledge the interconnectedness among all” (103). Thus, “Together, EcoJustice Education and community-based learning ask students to engage in learning that is intellectually rigorous, emotionally engaging, ethically charged, and spiritually fulfilling” (104).
The authors stress the importance of strong professional development for teachers involved in a project such as this, especially considering the challenges EcoJustice pose not just to students but to teachers themselves. Teachers will experience transformation themselves. They must come to learn new knowledge and new vocabularies (commons, anthropocentrism, androcentrism, consumerism, etc.), but also must overcome deep-seated attitudes and unexamined assumptions toward the subject matter. The authors offer a sound foundation for approaching professional development that is supported by numerous studies. Second, the place-based approach requires careful preparation since teachers must learn to adjust to the role of facilitator (guiding inquiry) and co-learner with their students in space outside the classroom and as co-teachers in partnership with community members (105). The authors then present as the centerpiece of the article a project in EcoJustice PBE on the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition.
The authors claim that “research shows that rich community-based learning experiences can increase student achievement (measured by test scores), motivation to learn, critical thinking, and conflict-resolution skills (American Institutes of Research 2005 ; Athman & Monroe 2004; Falco 2004; Lieberman 1998)” (107).
The volume this essay appears in examines the idea of school as community, and this essay seeks to take the discussion beyond the metaphor of community in school to the literal community beyond the school. The essay is not about PBE and does not address pedagogy of place, but it is worth including in this bibliography for its discussion of “social capital” and schools as “industries” within communities. Mawhinney writes that “schools act as magnets, attracting talented people, and they provide communities with tangible supports to enhance quality of life” (244). She advocates an “asset-focused orientation” that builds on community understanding and knowledge (243). Relationships between schools and communities capitalize on and encourage the flow of social capital, and schools can actively foster these relationships for the good of the school and the community. Specifically, she examines Putnam’s concept of social capital “as a public good,” which is “generated when denser networks of civic engagement are created ‘that facilitate communication and improve the flow of information about trustworthiness of individuals’” (239).
McInerney et al. review the literature on PBE with a particular view to its strengths and limitations for application in Australia. They briefly sketch out the history of the movement and some of its applications, they identify two aims of PBE that stand out as prominent and vital: (1) “revitalizing the commons,” as theorized by Bowers and Theobald, emphasizes ecojustice and the roles students can play in improving the “ecological wellbeing of the community,” and “connecting schools and communities,” which stems from Dewey’s concerns that students engage in learning outside the classroom and finds currency in recent trends toward standardization and high-stakes testing that flattens education and ignores the local (6). The authors point to research in the USA on PBE’s effectiveness in promoting “civic engagement whilst ensuring an intellectually challenging education that meets national standards” (7) and mention a more scanty body of research on Australian programs before presenting some findings of their own on some recent projects that show students gaining a stronger sense of educational purpose and connectivity in the community. The strengths of PBE notwithstanding, the authors identify several “tensions and dilemmas” in the examples they explored: namely, a “lack of critical perspective” in three particular areas: “prevailing assumptions about the notions of place, identity and difference; the pedagogical limitations of place-based curriculum; the limits to local activism when it comes to transforming communities” (9). They therefore advocate for a critical place-based pedagogy as described by Gruenewald to problematize place and to critically locate the local in relation to larger forces/threats and allegiances. They state in conclusion that PBE should be adopted in conjunction with other educational strategies to “promote civic engagement, democratic practices, an ethic of care for others and the environment, and the fostering of values that are largely absent from individualistic and utilitarian approaches to schooling” (13).
The article describes a two-year project to establish a multi-institutional collaboration to create “Science in the City” courses for pre-service science educators that use the resources of New York City to teach principles of geology and Earth science. The project members identified key principles in Earth science education and developed a pedagogy that “systematically utilizes the resources of the city to produce graduates who are able to integrate these resources into their teaching” (40). The four courses that resulted are described in the article and the success of the courses after implementation are discussed: e.g. inter-organizational collaboration increased, strong enrollment in the four new place-based courses, hiring of new faculty with PBE backgrounds, and positive feedback from students, and a high buy-in rate from students as evidenced by their use of PBE methods in the classrooms after graduating from the program. Also of note are the challenges noted by the authors: partnering with other institutions proved difficult due to different institutional goals and funding (the aim was to partner with institutions rather than individuals, which made relevant funding difficult); maintaining collaboration through the two years with all institutions was another challenge; and at the home college of the authors there was also resistance to the methods. The authors state “we have learned that successful partnerships between higher education institutions and informal partners are dependent on having significant institutional and programmatic goals in common” (44).
This cover story for the November 28, 2008 issue of the Chronicle highlights the newly developed General Education (core curriculum) at Temple University that offers as many as 30 courses with a place-based experience. The university discovered an increasing number of students chose Temple partly because of its urban location (over 60%, up from 40% two decades before), suggesting that students were increasingly interested in knowing about and experiencing the city. Some courses at Temple were already using the city in their curricula, so a general education committee convened to overhaul those requirements paved the way for a concerted place-based initiative. The program, called Philadelphia Experience, includes courses in the arts, theater, music, and in anthropology, criminal justice, and more. The article mentions similar programs developed at Augsburg College in Minneapolis and Eugene Lang College in New York City, and it also mentions efforts by Coalition of Urban Serving Universities to lobby the federal government to support urban college initiatives to foster such relationships with cities.
Nespor critiques PBE theory, exposing a variety of blind spots and unexamined assumptions that, in his opinion, inhibit the advancement of PBE as an educational movement. His discussion centers on a review of monographs by Theobald (Teaching the Commons) and Bowers (Revitalizing the Commons) and an edited collection from Gruenewald and Smith (Place-Based Education in the Global Age). Nespor maintains that all three books build their arguments upon simplistic dichotomies such as local/global, rural/industrial, or indigenous/capitalist without adequately acknowledging that “places are ongoing accomplishments produced through transactions and relations that cross their borders” (475). “Community” is treated in a similarly reductionist manner, often utilized by these writers and in PBE theory generally as shorthand for a positive (though mythic) state marked by “boundedness, intimacy, connection, intergenerational stability, and lack of internal division” (478). As with much environmental literature, the authors perpetuate a myth of a beleaguered innocence (be it indigenous culture, pre-industrial cultural commons, or rural ethic) under attack by such forces as industrialization, corporate interests, and technology (479). Nespor states, “most of this argument seems problematic if viewed against studies of people doing things in places. Instead of beginning as discrete, self-contained worlds (only later to be threatened by outside, placeless forces), actual settings — whether ecosystems, schools, towns, or states — are continually interacting with what is ‘outside’ their recognized boundaries. Instead of stable, homogenous autarchies, places change even when we ‘stay put’ and such continuities as they have are shaped by class, gender, and racial dynamics organized through extra-local relations of power” (480). While Nespor acknowledges that Gruenewald is elsewhere cognizant of the complexities of race, class, and gender, in the books under review the authors largely ignore “their roles in place-making and environmental politics” (483). Nespor argues that these elisions are critical because the local is often coopted by state and corporate interest or right-wing ideology for purposes of exploitation or to deflect attention from their own interests (e.g. corporations might object to environmental regulations based on an argument of local interests) (486). Nespor is further critical of placing too much emphasis on individual initiative (teach someone to be place-conscious and they will change the place), as well as a pedagogy for teachers and students that assumes they are blank slates with no inherent sense of place. Rather, Nespor believes the problem is not that people are not attentive to place or “do not have good roots,” but that “the other places to which they are connected, and in relation to which they are constituted, are hidden from our view, segregated from our everyday concerns, by circuits of communication, representation, and education. The question, then, is not whether or not we are place-conscious, it is the places of which we are conscious” (487). Nespor believes these issues in the theoretical representation of PBE “marginalizes the program in relation to key political and educational debates of the day and, in the end, may undermine efforts to make place central to educational theory and practice” (489).
This article is included in this bibliography for what is left out. The authors argue against the notion that higher education could one day be a place-less, distance learning transaction, stating various reasons why “going to college” will always denote a particular experience of education shared with others in a physical place—the college or university campus. While one might argue that a linguistic remnant of a physical campus – namely, “going to college”—is not proof that physical campuses are superior to virtual ones (any more than, say, our persistent habit of saying “hang up the phone” might suggest the superiority of rotary phones attached to our kitchen walls), the authors do present a variety of reasons to support a campus-based education. What is left out of their discussion is the integration of place into the curriculum, whether campus-based or community based. As with Aoun and Bill Gates, their use of “place-based” is not informed by place-based pedagogy but rather is used in contradistinction to distance learning.
Report on the Place-Based Education Evaluation Collaborative’s (PEEC) study of four PB teacher education programs with a K-12 and environmental focus. The article first reports on a variety of evaluative studies on place-based programs from community-based environmental learning to service learning. Each study supports the claims of PBE proponents that PBE increases student internal motivation to learn, elevates teacher professional satisfaction, more intimately connects community members to schools, and increases student (and teacher) civic engagement. The authors note that studies on this nascent pedagogy are still relatively few and recommend more work in this area. The present report is one contribution to our understanding of the efficacy of place-based pedagogy. The PEEC found the following strengths were common in the four programs assessed: working with community partners diversified viewpoints and opened access to more resources, facilities, financial support, skills and knowledge (21); project staff demonstrated and conveyed important skills such as curriculum planning, process facilitation, and meeting management (22); the programs provided summer institutes and sustained interventions (22-3); and programs were effective in “generating teacher confidence and buy-in” (23). The challenges teachers faced in implementing what they learned are important to note. While PBE methods were meant to complement existing curriculum, there was still a great deal of preparation involved (making community contacts, contracting buses, preparing student knowledge, expectations, technical skills, and behavior, etc.). As one teacher put it, “it takes more time to craft a solid, useful project than to crack open a textbook and pull out its corresponding worksheet” (23). The report suggests that a “whole school improvement model” may be easier to implement because of institutional support than a “teacher-by-teacher professional development model” (23). The findings also noted “six consistent impacts on teacher practice: use of local places and resources, interdisciplinary teaching, collaboration with other teachers, teacher leadership and personal growth, stronger curriculum planning skills, and greater use of service-learning in the curriculum (24). Finally, two themes were noted as emergent outcomes: “(a) the importance of community-based learning for special needs students, and (b) the impact of place-based education on student motivation toward learning and engagement in school” (26).
Resor argues that PBE is a powerful pedagogy for the teaching of social studies when “place” is approached in its complexity and teaching praxis embraces and elicits that complexity in the students’ experience. Based on Agnew (1987, ctd. in Creswell 2004), Resor distinguishes between “location, locale, and sense of place” (186). She uses the place where she lives to illustrate the meanings of each aspect of place—“location” being the fixed coordinates and place on the earth relative to other places, “locale” being “the actual setting in which people carry out their lives” (186) and its catalogue of objects like streets, houses, hills, etc., and “sense of place” being the subjective relationship of people with place. This last sense is the one in which Resor believes PBE makes its most useful contribution to social studies pedagogy. Sense of place includes the history of place, the power relations inscribed in place, the community and individual experience of place, and more. It is complex and multifaceted, and confronting students with this aspect of place can reap great educational benefits. To illustrate, Resor provides two hypothetical examples of a place-based project, one that directs students to conduct a project on place that does not question or problematize the notion of place and the other, which is actually a variation of the first project, that puts students in the position of confronting the sense of place and making decisions on the shape of their project accordingly. She concludes, “The second project may take longer, and the process will certainly be more controversial. But through the examination of the subjective notions of place in their local community, students learn to go beyond the seemingly obvious appearance of things and explore the shifting nature of individual and community perception. Students begin to see how their notions of place are informed by local and national expectations that may be created by those with something to sell or gain. They can learn to identify those influences, judge the value of each, and develop critical thinking skills. These are the elements that make place-based learning in social studies worthwhile” (188).
Note: See Ford for a response to Ruitenberg’s argument. Ruitenberg faults PBE’s primary theorists for an uncritical employment of terms such as “experience,” “locality,” and “community” and, via Derrida and the deconstruction method, offers as a corrective “a radical pedagogy of place.” According to Ruitenberg, “Place-based education risks reinscribing notions of innocence and purity that have not held up very well under deconstructive scrutiny” (217). The largely rural and environmental focus of PBE to-date has pitted a nostalgic and romantic view of place that does not translate well to the urban and cultural and, more fundamentally, is philosophically unrealistic and flawed. Employing Derrida and the deconstruction method, Ruitenberg maintains that experience, locality, and community are all constructs that are contingent and mediated through the prior and the nomadic. Experience is not pure, but is made up of and mediated through prior experience as the individual travels through life; locality is similarly defined and redefined and depends upon the non-local and global; and community is always and already contingent, and moreover defined as much by what it excludes as by what it includes. Ruitenberg argues that “a radical pedagogy of place is a pedagogy of ‘place’ under deconstruction, a pedagogy that understands experience as mediated, that understands the ‘local’ as producing and being produced by the trans-local, and that understands ‘community’ as community-to-come, as a call of hospitality to those outside the com-munis” (218). And this understanding has direct bearing on the pedagogical aims of PBE: “In a radical pedagogy of place, students are taught to see the multiplicity of and conflicts between interpretations of a place, the traces of meanings carried by the place in the past, the openness to future interpretation and meaning-construction. A radical pedagogy of place does not pretend to offer answers to or ‘correct’ interpretations of hotly contested places” (218). Key to Ruitenberg’s project is the deconstruction of what might be called a myth of the local versus the global or of the rooted versus the nomadic. In her conception, the nonlocal or global and the nomadic are “always already” present in the local and vice versa, and the belonging associated with the communal also depends upon not belonging. A radical pedagogy of place recognizes and attends to these notions. “A radical pedagogy of place acknowledges the local contextuality of discourse and experience, but it examines this locality for trans-local traces, for the liminal borderzones, for the exclusions on which its communal identity relies. It encourages not entrenchment in one’s locality and community but rather hospitality and openness” (219).
This article presents the principles of PBE and its relevance from a museum perspective, in this case, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City, where Russell-Ciardi is the director of education. Russell-Ciardi situates her presentation in the shift in PBE literature from rural to urban applications marked by Gruenewald (2003). She argues that PBE is a powerful platform for urban museums to engage visitors through a sense of place in the past and in the contemporary—so that the local place is the primary focus but issues of broad relevance are the ultimate destination. She describes the Tenement Museum experience and lays out five principles: (1) “present and interpret the history of sites whose importance is not widely recognized or acknowledged, but that provide a new perspective on history”; (2) “explore ways in which the sites are connected to larger social issues that are not just relevant in the local community where the museum is located, but in other communities as well”; (3) “complicate history, that is, to tell the history of the sites that the institution interprets from a variety of different perspectives, with a particular emphasis on perspectives that have been under-represented in traditional historiography”; (4) “involve visitors in the interpretation”; and (5) “inspire visitors to take action” (76-77).
The authors share insights from a place-based project in language arts they conducted with students in the Pacific Northwest. The project involved reading Nez Perce legends and poetry, comparing creation myths, and learning from tribal elders in the classroom and on site. Students were trained in interview skills and etiquette and they interviewed elders, recording and writing about their findings. Tribal elders were compensated for their time and effort with adjunct pay. The authors state, “we have found that collecting and examining stories of place encourages collaboration and socialization while learning” (47). The project also helped students to transcend stereotypical views of natives and native cultures (47). While the project relied on a specific landscape, student make up, and the availability of native culture, the authors stress that equally powerful place-based projects can be produced elsewhere, saying, “teachers in other parts of the country can follow our model to explore cultural contributions of regional voices that are often underrepresented in English language arts classrooms” (49). The strength of their model is empowering students to find and record stories of those regional voices that may not be available through textbooks.
Showalter provides a concise literature review of the development of PBE and studies that illustrate its benefits, as well as a useful introductory discussion of place-based mathematics education. According to him, “Place-based mathematics education (PBME) considers the unique history, geography, culture, and community of a place to be valuable resources for enhancing, and being enhanced by, students’ learning of mathematics” (1). The centerpiece of the article is to report on findings of a study he conducted on over two dozen graduates of a teacher education program that prepared students to teach via PBME methods in rural schools. Through carefully constructed interviews, Showalter sought to determine the teachers’ perceptions on the effectiveness of PBME as a tool for teaching math skills, especially in relation to the demands of Common Core Standards. His study suggested three conclusions: “(a) PBME was easier to teach about than to practice, (b) several factors contributed to participants’ level of depth and authenticity in PBME, and (c) teaching place-based statistics differed fundamentally from teaching place-based mathematics” (5). Showalter states in his conclusion that “in the teaching of algebra-to-calculus mathematics, the deep use of contexts such as a local place is in tension with standards-based objectives; in the teaching of statistics, the use of contexts is indispensable for understanding the process of statistical investigation” (10). He suggests that more exemplars of successful PBME for algebra-to-calculus are needed.
Aimed at elementary education and largely concerned with environmental and sustainability lessons, this article provides an impassioned argument for PBE. Sloan writes, “it is the responsibility of the teacher education profession to inspire and train teachers to transform the classroom experience they offer into an engaging learning environment for students of all cultures” (26). The author uses school gardens and other projects as examples of place-based methods, and he quotes or paraphrases from a variety of articles to support his view that PBE is effective and necessary in counteracting the displacement students are experiencing due to standardized curriculum with its emphasis on the national and global and new technologies. In contrast, “Place-based learning is a pedagogical approach that promotes students interacting with their environment and surroundings to gain a historical, cultural, and ecological perspective, while advocating for active stewardship and community participation” (Capra, 2007) (28).
This brief article defines PBE and catalogues its characteristics and benefits, providing a variety of curricular examples from K-12 education and evidence from several studies. In Smith’s definition, “place-based learning adopts local environments—social, cultural, economic, political, and natural—as the context for a significant share of students’ educational experiences” (30). He identifies three key characteristics of PBE: (1) place-based work situates students as knowledge-makers rather than simply knowledge-consumers; (2) the PBE paradigm changes the relationship of teachers to their students, making them “colearners and guides”; and (3) PBE makes student enquiry and “real world problem solving” central to the curriculum (31-2). While some may question PBE’s ability to help students meet standards, Smith quotes several studies that show PBE or PBE-type programs actually increase student performance on standard tests and in their academic performance, and this is likely because they are more intellectually and emotionally engaged in their school work and feel empowered.
Smith provides an overview of the PBE movement, noting scholarship and organized efforts to advance a transformative education agenda. He highlights Stevenson’s (1987) review of barriers to transformative education—namely, “the presentation of standardized knowledge associated with established disciplines, reliance on teachers as primary information sources, assessment procedures based on ease of marking and justification, and the control of students” (191)—as an impetus to the PBE movement. And he reviews watershed scholarship and efforts such as the Annenberg Rural Challenge in the 1990s, Paul Theobald’s book Teaching the Commons: Place, Pride, and the Renewal of Community (1997), the Rural Challenge Research and Evaluation Program of 1999, Jack Shelton’s Consequential Learning: A Public Approach to Better Schools (2005), Antioch New England Graduate School’s Community-Based School Environmental Education Project (2004), the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley (2005), and his own landmark essay in Kappan (2002) wherein he outlined five domains of PBE. Finally, Smith turns to Gruenewald’s 2003 article on a critical pedagogy of place and applies Gruenewald’s discussion of “decolonizaion” and “rehabitation” to three significant case studies of PBE in action (an environmental justice project at a high school in Boston, a similar project with upper-elementary students in Moloka‘I, and a controversial public debate in Oregon over the wolf population. Smith discusses why such transformative education is rare – it can become controversial when students have a voice in real-world issues, barriers such as permissions, budgets for field trips, etc., are real, peers, administrators, and parents may not understand the potentials of PBE when standardized tests have center stage, and teachers may not be willing to change the view of themselves as the “educational authority” (204). However, the benefits are significant: “such learning lays the groundwork for civic participation […] [and] engage[s] students in investigations that require close observation and problem-solving” (204). Smith writes, “Place-based education does not look like conventional education. Students don’t sit quietly at their desks listening to teachers or completing worksheets. They instead work and converse in teams and frequently leave the school itself to engage in activities in the field or community. And teachers do not concentrate on drilling students for high stakes tests, relying instead on forms of understanding and knowledge that arise more organically through real-life investigations and problem-solving. In the current era of narrowly defined accountability measures, courage is required of both principals and teachers to step outside the norm and encounter questions and outright skepticism from their superiors and peers (204).
This short but oft-cited article introduces the basic approaches of PBE, citing various K-12 examples throughout the country. Smith’s discussion of the multidisciplinary applications of PBE and its benefits are directly relevant to higher education settings.
Smith states that the aim of PBE is “to ground learning in local phenomena and students’ lived experience” (586), and he notes that learning naturally took place in this way before the invention of schools removed learning from lived experience and confined learning to textbooks and simulations within the classroom. “In schools, especially after the early elementary grades, teachers direct children’s attention away from their own circumstances and ways of knowing and toward knowledge from other places that has been developed by strangers they most likely will never meet. Learning becomes something gained through reading texts, listening to lectures, or viewing videos rather than through experiencing full-bodied encounters with the world” (586). He further notes that the alienation from actual communities is exacerbated by standardized testing” (586).
Smith offers five “thematic patterns” of PBE with specific examples: cultural studies, nature studies, real-world problem solving, internships and entrepreneurial opportunities, and induction into community processes. He furthermore draws a number of commonalities between these themes: (1) learning is grounded in the local and then moves to the non-local and to abstractions, (2) students learn to create knowledge and not just consume it, (3) student enquiry is primary, (4) teachers provide expertise but also come along students as co-learners and facilitators, and (5) assessment is grounded in tangible and real results. Smith cautions that teachers who take on place-based pedagogy must be willing to “become creators of curriculum rather than the dispensers of curriculum developed by others,” and they need to become adept at linking “unpredictable activities that can happen beyond the classroom and student performance standards” (593-4). Moreover, teachers must “relax their reliance on academic disciplines as the primary framework for making curricular decisions” (594).
One of the benefits of PBE in urban schools is the way students become connected with and invested in their communities. Students gain a sense of rootedness and a desire to seek economic opportunities and instill change in the communities in which they live. Smith writes, “young people primed to seek or create their own economic opportunities where they live enrich their communities and extend their roots more deeply into their own home ground. In addition to helping young people learn about local culture, natural phenomena, and problems, a place-based education that links school learning to locally available occupational opportunities provides young people with the confidence and initiative they need both to remain in their communities and to be of service to their families and neighbors” (591).
Smith and Sobel argue for the importance of place-based education, and, drawing on a decade of experience in the field, put forth reasons for the relevance of this pedagogy today and examples of its implementation. Under the heading “Why Make Room for the Local,” the authors lay out four essential reasons: (1) to increase “student engagement”: citing a 2005 study showing that only 40-60 percent of students can be considered “engaged” in school, the authors argue that place-based pedagogy engages students by presenting real world issues and giving them the tools to become actively involved in making changes (39); (2) “to build social capital”: the authors distinguish between “human economic capital,” “human capital in the form of scientific or engineering expertise, analytical skill, or sophisticated forms of literacy,” and “social capital.” While the first two are important to national and global competitiveness and individual success in industry, it is “social capital” that develops “forms of trust and mutuality that hold communities together” (40); (3) “to reconnect students with the natural world”; and (4) “to build leaders” (39-40). While the authors claim that PBE is an effective educational tool, they are careful to note that they are not advocating for PBE as a replacement for all other modes of education, but that the qualities that place-based pedagogy offer are an important ingredient to a well-rounded and effective education (43).
In introducing several exemplary teaching projects that illustrate their arguments about PBE, Smith and Sobel make this valuable point about how place-based pedagogy often materializes: “some of the most exciting projects we have encountered are the work of teachers who, as a result of their own concerns and inclinations, have chosen to involve their students in learning opportunities outside the classroom” (41). In other words, PBE centers on the creativity of teachers and their concern to see their students care about the community and the world around them. As for practice, the authors list the following questions to help instructors develop place-based curricula:
Start Thinking Locally
To guide your thinking about place- and community-based learning, reflect on the following:
- What local topics or issues are likely to be meaningful for students and give them an opportunity to participate in learning activities that others will value?
- What subject areas fit within this topic? List specific subtopics that students might explore, including those incorporated in your curriculum.
- What four or five overarching questions might guide your students’ study?
- What specific learning standards would this topic enable you to address?
- How will you assess student learning? List possible strategies, including some culminating projects. Discuss how you will scaffold the learning that students need.
- What community partners might you bring into the classroom to help teach this unit or to support activities outside of school?
- What field studies, monitoring, or other inquiry activities might students become involved with in their neighborhood, community, or region?
- What community needs might students address as part of this unit or project? What service learning opportunities does it afford? How might you publicize the contributions that students make?
- How might students become involved in community governance activities related to this project? How could they participate in data gathering, reporting, or other forms of public participation, such as organizing meetings or planning community events?
- What creative possibilities in the fields of art, music, dance, film, or theater relate to this project? What about vocational opportunities or internships? (42).
Sobel’s book is a primer for establishing PBE in schools and a defense of its efficacy in an age of standardized curricula and testing. The book is aimed at K-12 education, but there are many useful correlations and applications that can be made to higher education. Sobel’s oft-cited definition of PBE is an example:
Place-based education is the process of using the local community and environment as a starting point to teach concepts in language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and other subjects across the curriculum. Emphasizing hands-on, real-world learning experiences, this approach to education increases academic achievement, helps students develop stronger ties to their community, enhances students’ appreciation for the natural world, and creates a heightened commitment to serving as active, contributing citizens. Community vitality and environmental quality are improved through the active engagement of local citizens, community organization, and environmental resources in the life of the school. (11)
This definition applies to higher education PBE models as well as K-12 ones. Regarding the claim that PBE “creates a heightened commitment to serving as active contributing citizens,” Sobel provides a discussion of “social capital,” a term Sobel borrows from Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam. Social capital refers to “the willingness and capacity of individuals to work for the collective good of the community,” which, he says, “leads to a greater sense of personal well-being for their communities” (52).
Sobel offers strategies in one chapter for creating place-based schools, many of which may be adapted to college settings. The chapter emphasizes two key principles: “Maximize ownership through partnerships,” and “Engage students in real-world projects in the local environment and community” (73). To activate these principles, Sobel describes strategies of creating teams, connecting with the community and “creating action forums,” integrating PBE throughout the curriculum, and professional development for faculty. Another chapter of note is “What Research Says: How Place-Based Education Increases Academic Achievement” (34). The studies and statistics cited in this chapter are a strong defense of the PBE method. Similar studies on the efficacy of the PBE approach could be conducted in higher education settings.
Sobel and Smith, two of the leading PBE theorists and practitioners, offer in this book a primer for adopting the PBE approach in any discipline and any location. The book lays out the primary misconceptions about PBE (e.g. it is too time consuming, it’s really about environmental education, it’s only for rural schools) and dismantles them with information, examples, and research that show PBE is invigorating and gratifying for teachers, it is utilized in many disciplines (and is often multi-disciplinary), it has a strong track record in urban schools, and it improves test scores by increasing student interest and understanding by providing a contextualized learning environment. They describe PBE not as an add-on to current curriculum but as “a mindset, a paradigm shift” in the way we teach (ix). The authors state, “our conviction is that place- and community-based education is a much more holistic, vital, effective model for school improvement than the current No Child Left Behind, test-till-you-drop, paradigm” (13). While this book is written for a K-12 audience and intended for K-12 application, there is much that can be drawn from this book for higher education practice.
Inspired by Gruenewald’s “critical pedagogy of place” (2003), Somerville draws on her experience in feminist poststructural theory and her work with indigenous populations in Australia to construct what she calls a place pedagogy for global contemporaneity. She outlines three basic elements to this pedagogy: (1) that “our relationship to place is constituted in stories and other representations” (335) – by which she means that we negotiate a sense of place through the way that place has been represented; (2) “place learning is necessarily embodied and local” (336) – “we learn about place through embodied connections in particular local places” (337); and (3) “place is a contact zone of cultural contact” – or, places are meeting points where cultures intersect and are therefore “multiple and contested” (338). Somerville calls her pedagogy founded on these elements an “emergent arts-based methodology” – emergent because of its undoing and remaking of constructs (as suggested in Gruenewald’s “decolonization” and “re-inhabitation), and arts-based “in order to encompass the multiple forms in which alternative representations of place are possible. It requires bodily engagement with the materiality of specific local places and the conscious facilitation of the representation of alternative and invisible stories” (340). Somerville asserts that a pedagogy that brings students into an attentive and critical relationship with local places is crucial in our contemporary world “because of the emphasis on techno-scientific and economic rationalist solutions” to global problems such as global warming and drought (341).
Stevenson contributes to the discussion initiated by Gruenewald’s combination of critical pedagogy and placed-based education (2003) and Bowers’ (2008) criticisms that a critical pedagogy of place is oxymoronic. Stevenson agrees with Bowers’ insistence on Geertz’s notion of thick description but does not see this as a negation of Gruenewald’s project. While Bowers seeks to call Gruenewald out on a critical approach that privileges the Western academic tradition at the expense of local knowledges, Stevenson criticizes Bowers’ treatment of local knowledges and the cultural commons as monolithic and coherent. Stevenson presents a view of the local as problematized in this era of globalization and sees both Gruenewald’s and Bowers’ approaches as essentially two sides of the same coin (or as Yin and Yang): “Gruenewald (2003) emphasises the convergences or alignments of place-based education and critical pedagogy, while Bowers (2008) focuses exclusively on divergences or contradictions. There are both junctures and disjunctures between the two traditions. However, social change itself is a dynamic process of junctures and disjunctures, continuities and discontinuities, and so a critical pedagogy of place (broadly defined) can be commensurate with the disjunctures or divergences with which we must live and from which we must learn” (358).
Straus and Eckenrode describe service learning as a movement that has gained traction in the last twenty years within the civic engagement initiatives of colleges and universities that makes academic connections between student work in the community and their coursework, and is in that sense integrative and community focused. They argue that the strength of service learning lies both in this integration of community work and academic work so that the project in the community “acts as another type of fundamental course text from which students learn” and in the centrality of community needs to the project: “rather than the university imposing the venture on the surrounding community, the campus avails itself” (254). The authors find that there is significant scholarship addressing the role of service learning, but less on “discipline-specific applications, and even less on applications in the humanities. According to Straus and Eckenrode, “the lack of scholarship on service-learning in history, and in the humanities in general, raises several questions. What relevance or worth does the study of the humanities have in the world outside of the academy? In what ways is community engagement efficacious as an instructional strategy in history courses? How can historians find community partners who are interested in historically based projects? And, finally, why have so few history professors [especially outside public history] engaged in service-learning projects with their classes? (255). In the rest of the article, the authors report on a project at their university, SUNY Fredonia, to make service learning a central component of the capstone course for history majors. Some interesting features of their set up include: working closely with a local history museum to identify the museum’s needs, assigning the students the task of proposing future projects that would meet those needs and fulfill capstone objectives, and working closely with a librarian to train students in primary research and software tools related to the project. The authors conclude, “through this community-based approach to course design, the students provided meaningful service to the History Department, university, and community, while doing the more traditional work of historians” (262).
While not specifically addressing PBE, this article’s emphasis on the ways in which especially urban spaces are proscribed through power hierarchies that script gender and race in particular ways and its argument that an awareness of these systemic factors must inform an urban college pedagogy are directly relevant to this bibliography. Taylor and Helfenbein refer to theories of space and place to ground their discussion, including those of Henri Lefebvre: “in The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre (1991) outlines his geographic approach to examining one’s lived experiences and possibilities. He defines representations of space as ‘conceptualized space, the space of scientists, planners, urbanists, technocratic subdividers and social engineers, as of a certain type of artist with a scientific bent—all of whom identify what is lived and what is perceived with what is conceived’ (38)” (321). The writers suggest that all urban space and school space is conceived space and that it directly impacts identity. “This understanding is important for any interruption and critical rearticulation of practices and systems of oppression, and the discursive formations that support and sustain systemic forms of oppression, especially within the machinations of globalization where dissemination and unification of such systems occurs at a dizzying pace” (321). The authors also make use of Soja’s tri-part theory that divides the concept of space into a Firstspace (spatial practice), Secondspace (representations of space), and Thirdspace (spaces of representation). The authors specify that the Thirdspace is especially fruitful in creating a framework that opens up not only spaces of representation but “spaces of resistance” or “counterspaces” as well (322). Examples from student writing illustrate student interaction with identity and space/place and other topics.
Theobald argues that place-based education is a development that is gaining the force of a “movement” in educational theory and practice that can significantly alter the course of education in the US. Through a lengthy discourse on the roots of democracy and education in the US, Theobald maintains, following Charles Taylor, that for the past 150 years the “L-Stream” in this society (i.e. the influence of the philosophy of John Locke), with the help of social Darwinisim, has steadily dominated the “M-Stream” (i.e. the influence of the philosophy of Charles de Secondat Montesquieu), resulting in a hobbled democratic practice and an education system that sees individual economic success as its raison d’être. Locke believed that people in their natural state were pre-political and motivated economically; Montesquieu believed they were motivated politically and socially (communally) first and economically second. The local assemblies Tocqueville so admired and the educational philosophy were influenced by the M-Stream—people are fulfilled when they are communally engaged; democracy functions when people are engaged; so the goal of education is to produce thinking citizens. With the rise of social Darwinism later in the 19th century, the L-Stream began to take dominion—people are fulfilled when they are economically better off; not everyone is suited through natural selection to be involved in governing; so the goal of education is to prepare individuals for their place in the economy (hence the rise of vocational education in that era and our current emphasis on occupational preparation). Looking at the present day, Theobald says, “If the [educational] enterprise is predominantly about occupational preparation, then the verdict, so to speak, is already in. We know what students need to get if they are going to be ready for the job market. Our best students, those clearly headed for the important and interesting jobs in society, are often afforded an education that includes the cultivation of reasoned judgment. They are the exception, however, for most students are merely asked to acquire certain sets of facts and skills. Our stepped-up accountability efforts are designed to be sure that our students get them” (329). He furthermore states that “given [Montesquieu’s and Thomas Jefferson’s] interpretation of what makes us fully human, all children require the ability to look at problems from multiple perspectives, and all children require the ability to form reasoned judgments regarding evidence. The dignity of a life doesn’t reside totally in an individual’s ability to affect his economic condition; it also resides in his capacity as a citizen to positively affect the lives of others. In other words, there is a social or communal dimension to life that requires educational cultivation” (329).
Theobald claims that PBE recaptures the M-Stream by making community central to educational practice and thereby preparing students to find their fulfillment in community as fully-functioning members of democracy. PBE looks beyond the memorization of facts that students need to demonstrate on standardized tests and gives them a context that requires students to make practical use of those facts. “Much more than the currently popular “standards-based” educational movement, place-based education rests on recent developments in cognition theory concerning the nature of human understanding. Most significantly, place-based curriculum and instruction capitalizes on the crucial role of context in human learning. But more than just reaping the instructional benefits of embedding subject matter into the particularities of the place where students happen to live, place-based education intends to increase the motivation to learn among students, as this type of study enables them to see the value of greater intellectual leverage over their immediate environment” (316). Because PBE makes the community the laboratory for school subjects, students see themselves as part of an important process. They see themselves as difference-makers. This, Theobald argues, should be the purpose of public education, to prepare young people to be active citizens in a truly democratic society.
In his concluding remarks, Theobald places the PBE movement at the center of a major shift in education. “Moving the educational narrative in this country away from what the late Neil Postman called the “god of economic utility” toward a balanced approach—one that yields both the skills and knowledge of the sort necessary for the economic arena and the capacity for reasoned judgment among all students necessary for the political arena—is the great educational task that faces this nation (Postman 1995, 27). Place-based education allows the community to become a powerful curricular source, but it also enculturates youth into the habit and practice of attentiveness to the circumstances that surround them—as well as the effect of these circumstances on friends and neighbors. Schools can in this way contribute to the effectiveness of local associations dedicated to improving local circumstances—and thus make a genuine contribution to larger democratic processes” (330).
In this short article, Thompson and Davis review criteria for community engagement put forth by The Scottish Community Development Centre, Communities Scotland (SCDC, 2007), describe the theory of engagement posited by Kearsley and Shneiderman (1999), and discuss the community engagement model developed at the graduate education program at University of West Florida. Kearsley and Shneiderman’s theory of engagement involves three components: relate (student collaboration), create (student application), and donate (student makes valuable contribution to community entity) (49). The projects described are useful examples of PBE in the fields of science and statistics.
Thompson worked as a consultant for a “community development and life-long learning project with the Tasmanian Department of Education in 2002 and was able to interview a number of teachers who implemented PBE projects in their schools, which provide the basis for this paper (82). She states that the context and impetus for the Tasmanian project were the threats of globalization to local cultures. Thompson references a variety of commentaries on globalization from Anthony Giddens (1991), who argues that “in conditions of high modernity […] local neighbourhoods lose sway, and families retreat behind their garden walls, into gated suburbs and polarized cities to live increasingly individuated and reflexive lives,” and Arjun Appadurai (1996), who “argues that the capacity of local places to generate local networks, meanings and affiliations is undermined by the acts of nation-states increasingly anxious to construct material and imaginary borders in the face of global scapes of image, information and money” (81). She describes the Tasmanian context, its history and ethnic make-up, and its economic struggles, to set the stage for the intervention by the department of education, which included a variety of place-based projects in local schools. Four of these projects are described in the article, each illustrating place-based methodology in which students were actively engaged in learning in the community that produced positive results in the communities and among the students: bringing people—notably, young students and adults in the community (88), transforming student attitudes toward their communities and toward learning (88), and student self-image (“this project was a very significant disruption to the production of educational disadvantage and these students as ‘other’” (88). Thompson ends the article with a brief review of PBE and its advocates’ claims about the benefits of place-based pedagogy – e.g. student engagement in learning is increased through projects with meaningful purposes and “tangible results”; students excel when they see themselves as researchers and real problem solvers (90). From her interviews with teachers in the Tasmanian project, Thompson finds support for these claims. These school-community projects suggested to me the potential for schools—through activities that build new networks, conversations, flows of information, narratives and experiences—to reinforce, complement, disrupt or interrogate local relational and meaning-making practices” (92).
This is a look at PBE from the perspective of museums. Three case studies are introduced to illustrate ways that museums can do more than provide a service to the museum but can actually involve the community in the museum. The authors write, “While many museums choose to present the world to the individual, an equally powerful and perhaps more popular pedagogy is for museums to represent local communities to themselves and to hope the world is listening to the conversation” (302). Two of the case studies involve schools and students. The relevance to this bibliography is that PBE perhaps works best when students are engaged by the museum to make an impact on the museum and not just to assist in student learning.
This is largely a philosophical argument about the meaning of place illustrated by a case study of a place-based science education project and a discussion of its relevance to PBE in general. Van Eijck and Roth contend that an uncritical approach to place in PBE may lead to incomplete knowledge, distortions, cultural appropriations, and even cultural colonization. Using their own project that engaged students with scientific evaluations of an inlet on Vancouver Island, BC, the authors show how an approach to the “place” in purely scientific terms misread and misrepresented the place as chronotope. Drawing on Mikhail Baktin’s diologic theory and on Heidegger, Einstein, and others, they argue that any particular place is defined by an interaction of people and place as an experience of time and space as lived, not a static, scientific entity. Tod Inlet cannot be defined simply as a geographical location with particular water measurements and geological data but must be considered as a chronotope – a time (Greek, chrono) and space (Greek, topos) construction made up of pregnant meanings as a lived place with history, relevance, and spirit. Even using the name Tod Inlet ignores the colonization of Europeans of this native land, whose name in the indigenous language itself is pregnant with meaning– SN̲ITȻEȽ. The authors contend, “this reduction of the inner chronotope of place to the scientific chronotope defined by external relations only is exactly what makes ‘place’ in place-based science education so problematic. Drawing on a chronotopic notion of place, however, allowed us to reframe ‘place’ in place-based education such that it is not reduced and to [sic.] annihilated (colonized) by the scientific chronotope” (887).
Does place-based education have a lasting effect on students, and, if so, what are the effects? These are the questions Victor seeks to answer this study. She tracked down four graduates of the University of Michigan’s New England Literature Program (NELP), a seven-week experiential course taught in the woods of Maine on literature by New England writers that has been taught since 1975. Like other place-based programs, NELP strives to engage students in academic studies (in this case literature) by contextualizing them in real-world experiences (in this case nature settings in New England. The hope is that students will develop skills and values (toward community, the natural world, etc.) that will make them valuable contributors to society and personally fulfilled. Victor’s study explores the life paths and character of four NELP graduates from 1979, 1983, 1999, and 2005, and seeks to discover whether NELP had a lasting impact on their skills/knowledge development (e.g. analysis, synthesis, writing, outdoor abilities) and their character strength development (e.g. open-mindedness, love of learning, social intelligence, citizenship, self-regulation, appreciation of beauty) (88). Her study indicated several emergent trends that suggest a positive correlation between NELP and enhance/increased creativity, collaboration skills, self-confidence/self-knowledge, and regard for nature (89-90).
While “rural communities” is emphasized in the title, this article applies to museums that seek to function “at the heart of—rather than apart from—their communities” (253). Villeneuve and Martin-Hamon claim that place-based methodologies are especially effective in making museums vital components of any community. They describe a project in rural Kansas as a case study and then glean a variety of lessons from it that can be applied in any setting. For example, they recommend that museum PBE projects include all or most of the following: an issue or need relevant to the community, an element of focus (e.g. architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, people), “inquiry and/or service learning pedagogies,” “a museum and its resources,” and community collaborators and learners (255-6). The authors also present a table of hypothetical PBE projects that identify issues and sample inquiry projects for each element. They conclude with a bullet list of recommendations. In short, this article is useful to introduce a museum PBE model.