Countering hopelessness in geography classrooms: Theoretical and practical interventions for teaching hope, agency, and transformative change

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Geography Education Specialty Group, Human Dimensions of Global Change Specialty Group, Community College Affinity Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Mid-City, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Organizers: Jessica Barnes
Chairs: Brian Petersen


In our current moment of ecological and political crisis, maintaining hope can be a challenge for geography teachers and students. Numerous studies have found an “action-knowledge” gap (Kollmus and Agyeman, 2002; Meyer 2006) where increased awareness of environmental problems often does not connect with the adoption of pro-environment behaviors. Mckinley (2008) argues this apathy is related to a shift in worldviews from a progressive outlook towards the future to an age of hopelessness fostered by environmental activists and the media presenting a dire image of the present and future. Many scholars in geography have also drawn attention to this issue (Castree et al., 2010; Lawson, 2004; Cameron, 2007). To solve the problems facing our world college educators and students need to bridge the gap between knowledge and action. In this session, we are interested in theoretical and practical interventions that encourage teaching hope, agency, and critique in geography classrooms.

We are particularly interested in how educators, especially geography faculty, overcome a sense of hopelessness through critical pedagogy and provide meaningful approaches for students to feel empowered to enact social change. What are the opportunities and limitations of teaching hope in the context of neoliberal universities? How can we construct teaching norms and practices that resist hopelessness in ourselves and our students? Can positive psychology provide a useful set of tools for teaching hope in terms of conceptualizing hope and situating it within the context of individual well being? How can we teach hope while maintaining a commitment to critique? What strategies for collective action are available? This could include engagement with themes as:

• Critical and transformative pedagogy
• Social transformation
• Governmentality of teaching and learning
• Constraints of and resistance to the neoliberal university / enterprise society
• Strategies for teaching hope and agency
• Strategies for facilitating collective action among students and among teachers

Cameron, J. (2007). Teaching a Politics of Hope and Possibility, Keynote Presentation to the National Conference of New Zealand Social Science Teachers.

Castree, N., P. A. Chatterton, N. Heynen, W. Larner, M.W. Wright, editors. (2010). The point is to change it: Geographies of hope and survival in an age of crisis. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lawson, V.A. (2004). “President’s column: Geographies of fear and hope.” AAG Newsletter. 39(9): 3-4. .

Kollmuss, A. & J. Agyeman (2002). Mind the Gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior?, Environmental
Education Research, 8(3): 239-260.

Meyer J.M. (2006). Sacrifice, hope, and the future of environmentalist social criticism. Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, San Diego, California. .


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Brian Petersen*, Northern Arizona Univ., Jessica Barnes, Northern Arizona University, From hopelessness to transformation in the geography classroom: critical pedagogies for faculty and students 20 5:20 PM
Presenter Gretchen Lang*, University of Colorado Boulder, “Showing up differently”: making the space of the affective classroom 20 5:40 PM
Presenter Matthew Wilson*, University of Kentucky, The President Likes Maps 20 6:00 PM
Presenter Elin Sæther*, University of Oslo, Individual experiences, collective meaning making: Students’ narratives about themselves as environmental citizens 20 6:20 PM
Discussant Nurcan Atalan-Helicke Skidmore College 20 6:40 PM

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