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Department of Education

Eleanor Rawling

Honorary Research Fellow

College Affiliation: St Hilda's College

Eleanor Rawling, MBE, is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Oxford Department of Education and an independent researcher and consultant, specialising in curriculum policy and curriculum change, particularly in relation to geography.

After attaining a degree in geography and a PGCE (1967-72) at the University of Oxford, she taught in a secondary school and worked on two curriculum development projects: The Schools Council Geography 16-19 Project at the University of London Institute of Education (1976-85), and The Geography, Schools and Industry Project at the University of Oxford Department of Educational Studies (1987-91). In 1991, Eleanor was made a Research Fellow at the Oxford University Department of Educational Studies and also became President of the Geographical Association (1991-2) and Chair of the Council of British Geography (1993-5). She was awarded MBE in 1995 for services to geographical education.

From 1993-2005, Eleanor was Professional Officer for Geography with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, during which time, she also maintained her research activity and publications via links with the Oxford Department. A Leverhulme Research Fellowship 1999-2000 allowed her to take a sabbatical from QCA to carry out a study of the impact of curriculum policy on school geography, and the resulting book Changing the Subject; the impact of national policy on school geography 1980-2000 (published by the Geographical Association) has been widely cited both in and beyond the geography education world. This was followed by a BERA publication Connecting Policy and Practice; Research in Geography Education. Eleanor’s contribution to policy studies was recognised by the award of the Royal Geographical Society’s prestigious Back Award for contributions to geography and education policy in 2003.

Since 2005, Eleanor has undertaken consultancy work for numerous organisations, including the Welsh Assembly Government’s Curriculum Design Team working on the Donaldson Review of the Curriculum, and the Department for Education (England), working on National Curriculum, GCSE and A level geography. She has edited the academic journal Geography, played key roles in both the Royal Geographical Society and the Geographical Association and been an active member of the Geography Education Research Collective (GEReCo), producing academic papers and chapters. She has given papers at a number of international conferences, including Brisbane, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Toronto, New York and most recently Boston in 2017.

Current research

Eleanor’s current research and writing focuses on curriculum policy, curriculum change and curriculum development. Significant work (2015-present) includes:

  • lead researcher and writer for the Geographical Association’s initiative A Curriculum Framework for School Geography 2020-22. The purposes of the Framework are to identify key concepts, significant features and distinctive approaches in the discipline of geography; to highlight how these features can contribute to the education of young people; and to clarify how this should inform the development of the school curriculum at national level.
  • lead writer, consultant and member of Advanced Level Content Advisory Board (ALCAB) for Geography;
  • consultant to the Welsh Assembly Government’s curriculum design and development team developing a curriculum framework for Wales and working on the Humanities AoLE;
  • research and updating of ‘ Changing the Subject; the impact of policy on school geography’
  • contribution to a seminar in Boston (2017) on learning progressions as international member of a US project Transformative Research in Geography Education, funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Centre for Research in Geography Education (Texas State University)
  • founder member and active contributor to the Geography Education Research Collective (GEReCo)

Eleanor’s recent research has also extended into the area of cultural geography, in particular the dynamics of self and place, geography’s links with literature and poetry and the implications of these developments for geography education. Since 2011, she has published a book about the poet, Ivor Gurney (Ivor Gurney’s Gloucestershire; exploring poetry and place), two chapters examining the role and challenge of place in school geography (2011 and 2018), an article in the new journal GeoHumanities (2016) and a paper in the US Journal of Geography (2018).

Publications (since 2000)
  • 2020 ‘How and Why National Curriculum Frameworks are Failing Geography’ in Geography Vol 105 Part 2 69-77
    2020 ‘Geography in the Welsh Curriculum’ in Teaching Geography,Vol 45(3) pp101-104
  • 2018 Reflections on Progression in Learning about Place in Journal of Geography, Vol 117 pp128-132
  • 2018 Place in Geography: Change and Challenge in Debates in Geography Education 2nd edition ed. Lambert D and Jones M, London, Routledge
  • 2016 The Geography Curriculum 5-19; What Does it All Mean? Teaching Geography Vol 41 (11) pp 6-9
  • 2016 Walking into Clarity; the dynamics of self and place in the poetry of Ivor Gurney GeoHumanities Vol 2 (2) pp 509-522
  • 2015 Curriculum Reform and Examination Change for Geography 14-19, Geography Vol 100, Pt 3 pp 164-168,
  • 2011 Ivor Gurney’s Gloucestershire; exploring poetry and place, Stroud, Glos, The History Press
  • 2011 Reading and Writing Place, a chapter in Geographical Education for the 21st Century ed G.Butt,, London, Continuum
  • 2011 Organic public geographies: ‘making the connection’. In Antipode (online journal) Vol 43, no.4. Authors: Harriet Hawkins et al incl.Eleanor Rawling
  • 2008 Planning Your Key Stage 3 Curriculum, Teaching Geography Vol 33 no 3, Autumn 2008
  • 2007 Planning Your Key Stage 3 Curriculum, Sheffield, Geographical Association.
  • 2007 Taking a ‘Cultural Turn’. Teaching Geography Vol 32 no.1 Spring 2007
  • 2006 Changing the Subject; what’s it got to do with me? In Handbook for Secondary Geography Teachers, Sheffield, Geographical Association.
  • 2006 A Cultural Turn for School Geography? The experience of one pilot course for 14-16 year olds in England. Proceedings of the Symposium of the International Geographical Union’s Commission on Geographical Education, Brisbane, IGU-CGE June 2006
  • 2005 School Geography and the Process of Curriculum Change, Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education and Training website,
  • 2004 Managing Curriculum Change 14-19; A Case Study from England, in Symposium Proceedings of International Geographic Union Commission on Geographical Education, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
  • 2004 School Geography in England – National Updates Section in Geographical Education; Expanding Horizons in a Shrinking World edited by Kent A, Rawling E and Robinson A, Scottish Association of Geography Teachers and Internationl Geographical Union-Commission on Geographical Education
  • 2004 Geographical Education: Expanding Horizons in a Shrinking World jointly edited with A Kent and A Robinson, and author of one chapter, Scottish Association of Geography Teachers and International geographical Union Commission on Geographical Education, Glasgow
  • 2003 Acting the Part or Watching the Action; issues arising from undertaking participant research in a policy setting in Issues for Research in Geographical Education (Research Fora 3,4,5,6) edited by Ashley Kent and Andrew Powell, University of London and IGU Publications, London
  • 2003 Connecting Policy and Practice; Research in Geographical Education, The BERA Professional User Review Series, British Educational Research Association, Nottingham
  • 2002 Meeting the Key Stage 3 Challenge Teaching Geography Vol 27 (2) April 2002(jointly authored with J Westaway)
  • 2002 School Geography in England 1991-2001 in Teaching Geography in Secondary Schools; An OU Reader Routledge Falmer, London
  • 2001 Changing the Subject; the impact of national policy on school geography 1980-2000 , Geographical Association, Sheffield.
  • 2001 The Politics and Practicalities of Curriculum Change 1991-2000 arising from a study of school geography in England, British Journal of Educational Studies Vol 49 (2) June 2001 137-158
  • 2001 The Rises and Falls of School Geography Teaching Geography Vol 26 (3) July 2001 108-111 (jointly authored with J Westaway)
  • 2000 ‘The International Network for Teaching and Learning: Developing Links with School Education, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, Vol 24 (2) 277-284, jointly authored with S. Bednarz (Texas, USA), S Burkill (Devon, UK), J. Lidstone (Queensland, Australia).
  • 2000 ‘School Geography 5-16; Issues for Debate, in Issues in Geography Teaching ed T. Binns and C. Fisher, Routledge/Falmer p6-22
  • 2000 ‘School Geography: Does it Have a Future?’ Geographical Education (journal of the Australian Geography Teachers’ Association) Vol 13.
  • 2000 ‘Understanding Teacher Supply in Geography’ A Special Report for the Teacher Training Agency and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), arising from a conference held in April 1999.
  • 2000‘National Curriculum Geography: New Opportunities for Curriculum Development’, in Reflective Practice in the Teaching of Geography ed Ashley Kent, Sage Publications, London pp 99-112
  • 2000 Ideology, Politics and Curriculum Change: Reflections on School Geography 2000 Geography Vol 85 (3) 209-220


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