#GeoEdChat Think Piece from David Rogers

How do you assess the development of geographic skills?

Progress and Achievement

 

Before you start, my aim with this post is to provoke and ask more questions.  I’m not an expert, and I don’t even have a beard….

We all work within the confines of formal examination systems, but how do you develop geographical skills as well as knowledge and understanding?  If you choose to develop skills, which skills are developed?  What are the informed by? Why those skills?  How do you identify and measure skill progression?  How are these skills taught – in isolation or embedded within a geographical context?

These questions go to the heart of what it is that makes a good geographer. In my view, the teaching of irrelevant or poorly defined skills or skills constrained toward examination technique only, are responsible for much of the bad geography lessons I have seen over the past five years.  I think that it is vital to teach skills alongside content, but how should this be done and how can it be measured?

We had the Personal Learning and Thinking Skills framework in the UK but skills without a strong geographical context is the wrong approach.  Why subject children to a ‘map skills’ unit when map skills can be developed in other ways?

Are there any skills that uniquely geographical?  We improved the quality of geographical writing at Priory by teaching in the same way as English colleagues – using the same rules and techniques. Therefore, should geography departments be making links to other parts of the curriculum to enable children move away from assimilative learning, which they then struggle to apply to other disciplines, toward transcendent learning?  Should we as ‘teachers of children’ focus on furnishing our charges with the skills needed to succeed in later life rather than subject specific skills?

At my current school, the Art department are developing a skills web, a way in which to track skills development.  Colleagues at Priory Geography have also started the process of developing this skills web.  Consider the following – are they on the right lines?  What could be added?

Skills

 

Designed by Patcham High School’s Art Department

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#GeoEdChat 1: Putting geography at the centre of your school. A think piece by David Rogers.

The inaugural poll has closed.  The first #GeoEdChat on the 6th February will discuss how geography can be at the centre of your school.  The purpose of these ‘think pieces  is to provide some food for thought and a context on which to centre our discussions.  Feel free to add comments below.  This post is here to provoke reaction, generate discussion and get your goat up!

I’ve been teaching geography for almost ten years now and leading Priory Geography for five.  I’ve attended many CPD events, conferences and subject association meetings where the general consensus is that geography is being marginalised in schools.  My argument is that this is usually down to inaction within schools on the part of geography departments.

Let me explain.  If we are to move back into the spotlight, the fight is on two fronts.  The Subject Associations need to convince the politicians and policy makers that our subject should be on the curriculum.  In my view both the GA and RGS are doing a fine job at this scale.  The second front is to win the hearts and minds of our students, parents and leadership teams.  We can only do this through strong leadership from geography teachers at school level.  We need to win one school at a time.

At our school, geography has gone from a marginalised subject to one of the leading subjects in the school.  We deliver more progress, provide more opportunities for our students and are involved in whole school changes.  We weren’t asked to get involved and we didn’t ask for permission. We got on and did, employing a wide range of Guerilla tactics, subversion and sound curriculum design.

Our GCSE numbers have risen from 21 students in 2008 to 100 students in 2012.

We have been proactive, putting our necks above the parapet and being geographers driving change.  In the past five years, we have:

  • Produced a school wide mobile device policy;
  • Run the digital leaders programme;
  • Taken over BBC School Report;
  • Engaged teachers from across the school in guerilla learning and use our school grounds;
  • Gotten pupils, teachers and artists to co-plan lessons;
  • Led whole school off-timetable enquiry days;
  • Enabled children to develop campaigns and manifestos calling for school changes…

I could go on.  Most importantly, we transformed the curriculum so that most of our young people love geography, and let everyone know about it.

My message is simple: geographers need to be proactive, shake up the apple cart and get serious.  Or, allow the continued fossilisation and marginalisation of our subject by staying quiet.

#GeoEdChat Poll 1 with David Rogers

The first #GeoEdChat will happen on the 6th Feb.  I’ve put my head above the parapet and volunteered to moderate the first session. If you want to know who I am, check me out on Twitter or have a gander at my blog.

As moderator, I get to put forward a few ideas for what we focus the conversation around. The best bit is that you get to vote for what you’d like.  Here are my choices:

a. Putting geography at the centre of your school. 

Us geographers are always harping on about how our subject is so great and linked to other subjects.  How can geography and school geography departments take control of whole school initiatives?

b. Getting guerilla with school geography.

Geography is all around us but it’s getting more and more difficult to get out into the wider world.  How can mini-explorations and naughty learning allow children to develop their sense of place?

c. Using school grounds for exploration and fieldwork.

Similar to the second topic but more focused on the development of exam skills on and around the school grounds.

d. Setting up an overseas field-trip.

This one is all about getting out there.  We could focus on how to make the case for an overseas adventure, the planning, risk-assessment and ensuring that young people learn

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