Yvonne Behnke

Yvonne Behnke is a graduate designer of visual communication and a doctoral student of geography education at the Humboldt-Universität of Berlin, supervised by Professor Péter Bagoly-Simó and Professor Anke Uhlenwinkel (second supervisor). The main emphasis of her professional work and her scientific research are educational media. Her research focus lies on the visual aspects of educational media (print and digital), such as image-text relationships, visuals (graphics, photos), textbook analysis and eye tracking as a visual analysis method. 

Summary of the examination of English and French volumes as an example of the wider study:

Geographic topics in English textbooks are generally arranged according to the model of ‘geographical concepts’ (e.g.: eclipse –  Inspire your Geographers for the future, Heinemann, Oxford, 2006, This is geography, Hodder Education, London 2006-2009). ‘Geographical concepts’ is a standard model of international geography didactics, which is not yet commonly used in Germany. This model encourages discussion of the pupils’ own environment before subsequently asking and answering central geographical questions. Questions are divided into three key concepts ‘place’, ‘space’ and ‘scale’ and three sub-concepts of ‘diversity’, ‘change’, and ‘interaction’. (see also Anke Uhlenwinkel and Manfred Rolfes, Metzler Handbuch 2.0 Geographieunterricht, Westermann: Braunschweig, 2013, p. 174-224

The eclipse series examines the subject of ‘social proximity’ using different aspects of the key concept of ‘place’ (What is place?, my place, same place – different place, a sense of place, linking places, changing places, representing place, forbidden place, emotional place)

Complex guiding questions are employed to unlock the global links between geographic topics. Country examples act as case studies, used to illustrate relationships. Many books are divided into the sections ‘physical geography’ and ‘human geography’. Pages dedicated to methodology, for example, are only included in very few volumes. A great deal of the book is dedicated to preparation for examinations.

In the majority of the UK books studied there appears to be less emphasis on visual aspects such as design and typographic layout than in comparable German volumes that were also investigated in this study (e.g. individual page layout, unclear typological hierarchy, separation of individual chapters through coloured bars only, both double pages and single pages laid out with the margin column on the left and the main column on the right).

In France geography is taught according to a central curriculum. All volumes studied had the same structure across the individual age groups. The titles of the books and the progression of the chapters and topics are identical. The study examined books for the Seconde (ages 15-16 Lycee = grammar school) and for ES/S (ages 16-17 grammar school specialising in commercial, socio-scientific or science-based education)

The primary difference between French and German textbooks is that there is a clear focus on maps and diagrams (croquis et schéma) in French books. A great deal of space (special sections) in French geography books is dedicated to work with themed maps and associated geographical questions. Work with case studies and source material is the main focus, and the ability to critically process such material is practiced in the comprehensive test section. The thematic focus lies on the recognition and evaluation of systematic correlations, environmental and globalisation aspects as well as north-south themes.

The layout and typographical construction of all the different volumes is similar in terms of the stylistic devices used (e.g. two column-layout with main column and smaller margin column, typography, colour scheme).

The structure of the volume Tle L/ES/S Géographie. L’espace mondial (Bréal: Rosny, 2008) is a typical example. The book is divided into three sections (Partie 1 – Une espace mondialisé, Partie 2 – Les trois grandes aires de puissance dans le monde, Partie 3 – Des mondes en quête de développement). Each section is, in turn, divided into chapters, which open with dual topics and use key questions to introduce the subject. This is followed by a double-page spread with large, themed maps which establish the subject matter to come. Each double page is dedicated to one topic (Cours). These topics are consecutively numbered throughout the book. Key questions are again used, this time to develop the lesson content. After three or four pages of ‘Cours’ in a teaching unit, there is another double-page spread explaining a selection of case studies. A further double-page with thematic maps introduces the next teaching unit. At the end of each chapter there is a summary page (Synthèse) listing the key questions from the individual teaching units and their answers. Each chapter closes with three pages of methodology and practice (Méthode entraînément bac) which provide exercises for working with the case studies and maps.

The French volumes studied are characterised by numerous special sections with case studies, thematic maps and comprehensive tests and exercises. Boxes containing aids to learning are used sparingly. The contents and typographic structure of all examples studied are logically arranged and carefully designed. The use of different colours to emphasis separate chapters, a common device in German books, is not used.

The findings of this textbook analysis are an important component of my thesis, through which I am developing a new textbook concept for geography teaching. This will be done on an academic and theoretical level as well as through prototypes employing different design and content concepts.

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