Your School, Your Vision
'Geography prepares young people with the knowledge, skills and understanding to make sense of their world and to face the challenges that will shape our societies and environments at the local, national and global scales'.
- Dr Rita Gardner, Director, RGS-IBG quoted in A Different View (GA, 2009)
'It is... vital that geography teachers grasp the opportunities to shape the geography curriculum they teach, and do not view the new Geography National Curriculum and its modified level descriptions as a 'no change' curriculum that requires little response; teaching 'more of the same' is not a sensible response to the potential that this curriculum has to offer'.
- Butt, G (2008)
Schools are implementing changes across KS3 in a whole variety of ways. Integrated Y7 Humanities courses, skills based transition years and compressed two year KS3 courses all place geography in a potentially insecure position within the curriculum. David Lambert, quoted by Butt (2008), argues that the damaging erosion of the subject-based curriculum comes from three main sources: the rise of vocationalism, questions about the validity of 'compartmentalised' knowledge and concerns about the 'whole child' and the role of education as a preparation for life.
As a direct result of these pressures, and the impending arrival of the Diplomas, it is crucial that the case for school geography is refined and re-stated at every opportunity, with students, teachers, leadership teams, governors, parents and employers. Critical to this is the formation of a vision. Schools should be aspiring to provide a geography curriculum that brings school geography alive, that enthuses young people to ask questions and investigate their own world and that utilises the students' own 'personal geographies'. Students should not merely be the 'passive recipients of knowledge'.
Importance of geography
One vision for geography is given in the importance statement of the 2009 Geography National Curriculum which can also be viewed on their website.
'The study of geography stimulates an interest in and a sense of wonder about places. It helps young people make sense of a complex and dynamically changing world. It explains where places are, how places and landscapes are formed, how people and their environment interact, and how a diverse range of economies, societies and environments are interconnected. It builds on pupils' own experiences to investigate places at all scales, from the personal to the global.
Geographical enquiry encourages questioning, investigation and critical thinking about issues affecting the world and people's lives, now and in the future. Fieldwork is an essential element of this. Pupils learn to think spatially and use maps, visual images and new technologies, including geographical information systems (GIS), to obtain, present and analyse information. Geography inspires pupils to become global citizens by exploring their own place in the world, their values and their responsibilities to other people, to the environment and to the sustainability of the planet.'
A vision for geography
This is perhaps a good starting point when considering your own vision for the subject. To what extent do you agree with it; do you consider there is anything missing? A subject leader is required to shape their vision for their subject and it is often done more effectively in collaboration with colleagues and even students. A number of questions may arise that are worthy of consideration:
- What do I and my staff feel are important elements of a geographical education in the 21st Century?
- What qualities should geographers possess at the end of Key Stage 3?
- What forms relevant and engaging geography to your students in their area?
- What are the students' personal geographies? How can I build upon these?
- Is my vision for geography achievable? How can it be achieved, what is needed?
Young People's Geographies
The Young People's Geographies (YPG) project explores practical ways in which young people's interests, experiences, aspirations and curiosity can help shape their curriculum. A YPG curriculum results when teachers are responsive to what students make of what they get from their geography lessons. A YPG curriculum is less about 'coverage' and more about 'conversation', so that the students perceive their geography as more about 'them', rather than a subject that is being 'done to them'.
Activity 3: Young People's Geographies
- Having looked at the Young People's Geographies website, to what extent do you think that your current curriculum reflects the interests of your own students?
- Look at the short Animoto presentation below. Does it convince you of the value of geography? Why? How could you use it with colleagues and students?
- Prepare a briefing (in any media) for your Headteacher or school governors that sets out your vision for geography. Produce a convincing argument that will enable you to achieve your vision.
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