Geography is a discipline of explorers. Some geographers explore the world using satellite imagery and others by interviewing members of an indigenous community in an isolated area. What unites geographers everywhere is a desire to dig deeper, a desire to better understand why the spatial patterns and unique features we find in the world exist and how they interact and change. World Regional Geography presents an overview of the discipline by introducing students to key themes and concepts in the discipline of geography through a study of the world’s regions.

In a traditional World Regional Geography textbook, chapters are arranged around the various regions of the world with each chapter focusing on the geographic features of the particular region. Concepts such as climate, physical features, culture, economics, and politics are discussed in every chapter and particular places and names of physical features found in each region are emphasized. In essence, most World Regional Geography textbooks privilege breadth over depth.

There are two key problems with this traditional approach. First, most regional chapters follow the same basic outline of topics, perhaps beginning with physical features, then outlining historical developments, and then moving on to culture and economics. Countries and specific places within the region are emphasized rather than the patterns found across the region as a whole. There is rarely an over-arching theme or story that connects the regions to one another. Secondly, in most primary-level geography courses, breadth is already emphasized. Students may take map quizzes or learn a list of physical features, but have little exposure to the depth of concepts and theories that are central to geography as a discipline.

This book takes a different approach. Rather than present students with a broad, novice-level introduction to geography, emphasizing places and vocabulary terms, this text approaches geography as experts understand the discipline, focusing on connections and an in-depth understanding of core themes. This thematic approach, informed by pedagogical research, provides students with an introduction to thinking geographically. Instead of repeating the same several themes each chapter, this text emphasizes depth over breadth by arranging each chapter around a central theme and then exploring that theme in detail as it applies to the particular region. In addition, while chapters are designed to stand alone and be rearranged or eliminated at the instructor’s discretion, the theme of globalization and inequality unites all of the regions discussed. This core focus enables students to draw connections between regions and to better understand the interconnectedness of our world. Furthermore, the focus on both globalization and inequality helps demonstrate the real-world application of the concepts discussed. Colonialism, for instance, rather than a historical relic, becomes a force that has shaped geography and informs social justice. This thematic approach is also intended to facilitate active learning and would be suitable for a flipped or team-based learning-style course since it more easily integrates case studies and higher-order thinking than the traditional model.

Each chapter begins with a list of learning objectives. This text was written with the backward course design model in mind and the content of each chapter was structured around these learning objectives. Because of this backward design focus, the length of each chapter is considerably shorter than most traditional textbooks. The intention is for the instructor to supplement the text with problems, case studies, and news articles and to use the text as a springboard for discussing deeper issues. The chapters are written in an accessible style, often addressing the student directly, and the author’s voice has intentionally tried to remain present in the text. Following the Washington Post’s gender-inclusive style guide, the singular they is intentionally used throughout the text. Rhetorical questions are also used to help students reflect on concepts and to encourage them to dig deeper and consider concepts from different perspectives.

Finally, a key difference between this text and others on the subject is that it is provided at no cost under the CC BY license. This means that the content can be distributed, remixed, tweaked, or built upon simply by crediting the author. Geography is an open discipline. In truth, anyone can be a geographer as long as they are curious about the world around them.

This isn’t a perfect text and it doesn’t attempt to be. In emphasizing depth over breadth, some content was sacrificed. However, the intention is that students will not only know the material much more deeply, but in doing so, will also develop a passion for geography and a geographical imagination that will continue beyond this course.

Happy exploring, geographers.


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World Regional Geography by Caitlin Finlayson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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