How do you assess the development of geographic skills?
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?
Designed by Patcham High School’s Art Department
This post is a thinkpiece for #GeoEdChat to help people think of ways they have used or plan to use their school grounds to teach Geography. As Geographers we love working outside the classroom and believe in the power of this in aiding student learning. Along with the obvious examples of learning with field work, we often use the school grounds in creative ways.
Here are a few of the ways I have used the school grounds over the past 2 years:
- The courtyard outside of our class was turned into our coastal environment and the students became the wave trains approaching the coast. In this way we were able to physically see the process of wave refraction occurring and discuss the reasons why to add depth to the annotated diagrams we drew in class.
- I have used Guerrilla Geography in many classes to get students thinking and provoking further thinking of others in the school. In the example shown in the photo above, this class had been studying Globalisation and were now sharing important messages about Globalisation that related to their lives at school. This activity had students working in groups, thinking of their audience and picking the important points out of their previous learning – a great revision exercise.
The school grounds are brilliant for preparing students for fieldwork activities. Before taking Year 12 Geography students to Tongariro National Park for their field research, we used the school grounds to train the students in their field procedures. Steve Smith has devised a series of activities to achieve this. Driveway slopes turn into quasi rivers to measure river velocity, gardens are great for Vegetation Transects and slopes overlooking the fields, perfect for slope profiles. Precis sketches are also very easy to practice by purely walking to a different part of the school and practising your sketches.
- The final activity was one used for learning about perspectives. I had students all in one place writing a description of what they had seen. We then shared these descriptions and discussed how different people noticed different things from the exact same view. A great introduction for these students as to how perspectives shape our actions!
How do you use your school grounds to teach Geography?
Do these activities add anything to your classroom learning?
How do you know?
Love to hear your thoughts in #GeoEdChat at 8pm your local time on Wednesday 16th October.
#GeoEdChat is back from our mid-year break!
We are moving back to a voting format where you get to choose the topic of the next chat so that the Chats are as relevant as possible for all Geography Teachers. The moderator will then post a thinkpiece on the chosen topic to help stir the conversation.
Come back in the next couple of days to see the poll for our first chat back!
Something different this week for #GeoEdChat. On Wednesday we would like you to share a blogpost about an innovative lesson. Hopefully this will be a post from your blog about a lesson you are particularly proud of (good incentive to start a blog if you dont have one already!) or it could be a favourite post of someone elses.
At the end of the week I will write a post on here with links to all of these great Geography lessons so all can share and learn from them.
nb: if you have a protected account please make sure @GeoEdChat or @GeoMouldey are tagged in your tweet so that your blog can be included on the final summary
This week’s question for #GeoEdChat comes courtesy of Rod Yule who asked a couple of #GeoEdChat participants what aspect of Geography that students found most engaging.
I had a whole range of answers to this question come flooding out:
- Contexts that students find relevant to their lives
- Changes each year depending on class interests – some years I have had big groups who are incredibly interested in environmental issues, other years groups that just want to do more physical geography
- A common theme is that students need to see the authenticity of the content to be studied (this is fairly easy in Geography in my opinion), that is students want to see the real world relevance – that it is not just some made up problem
- Something provocative that brings an emotive tug to what will be studied
Then I started thinking more and remembered a conversation that I had in my department last week. We were discussing results of students in exams and how many in the department consider themselves “physical geographers” but our students seem to do better in the “human” papers – Population Studies, Development Inequalities etc. This has been a common theme over a few years so is there something in these papers that particularly engages the students?
What aspect of your Geography course do students find most engaging?
Why do you think this is?
Do you regularly ask your students in a manner in which they can be completely honest?