Kirsten Somerville


Research title: Earth Writing: Teaching Geographical Processes through Narrative and Poetic Expression

Research Summary

To build a more sustainable future, it is arguably necessary to equip the next generation of ‘citizens’ with the knowledge to make environmentally-aware decisions in all domains of life. In the Anthropocene, when humans have become significant ‘geological agents’, educating young people about the Earth’s natural processes has never been more urgent. This is a central concern of geography, a subject often serving as a key space of educational engagement with environmental issues. Yet, in Scottish secondary schools, the uptake of geography is in decline. While the restructuring of secondary education under the Curriculum for Excellence has been recognised as a major external factor influencing this trend, it is nonetheless pertinent to re-examine the appeal and accessibility of geography as subject – particularly its near-unique ability to bridge the gaps between the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

This project will explore the value of narrative and poetic forms of expression in the learning and teaching of physical-geographical processes such as landscape evolution, glaciation and river formation. Through class observations, participatory workshops, interviews and textual analysis of pupils’ creations, it aims to evaluate these methods’ potential to improve understanding and motivation in geography, as well as their broader capacity to promote the development of environmental awareness. The findings will inform education authorities and practitioners seeking innovative pedagogy in the discipline.


  • ESRC 3.25 Doctoral Studentship, 2021-2024 (UKRI annual stipend + tuition fees)