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University of Surrey, UK

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1 University of Surrey, UK
The Place of Concepts in New Zealand Secondary School Geography Mike Taylor (VUW), Andrea Milligan (VUW) & Jody Bennett (Onslow College) GA Annual Conference, University of Surrey, UK 14-16 April, 2014 81 MS 02

2 The New Zealand context
Patterns, process, interaction and perception driven; set in natural and cultural environments at different scales, times and rates. Three distinct curriculum levels: Level 6 curriculum, Level 1 NCEA (≈ Year 11, 15 years) Level 7 curriculum, Level 2 NCEA (≈ Year 12, 16 years) Level 8 curriculum, Level 3 NCEA (≈ Year 13, 17 years) Influence of high stakes assessment: Rhetoric of curriculum flexibility but specifics of assessment requirements present constraints and encourage perpetuation of long-standing approaches Key curriculum and assessment features: The NZ geography curriculum framework is organised around patterns, processes, interaction and perception. The human-environment interaction model of geography has held sway over the last 30 year There are three levels of Geography in the NZ senior secondary school, with progression from one year to the next, assessed by a modular national qualification, the NCEA. 3. Teaching and learning in the senior secondary school is heavily influenced by high stakes assessment.

3 1990-2007: Curriculum design - conceptual framing
‘Prescribed Common Topics’ & ‘School Selected Studies’ 52 Important Geographic Ideas Central concept of environment Location Distance Accessibility Patterns Processes Regions Interaction Change Systems Culture and Perception e.g., some spatial patterns are the result of people’s organisational structures, either social, economic, or political A conceptual framing to New Zealand geography is by no means a recent phenomena. The 1990 syllabus presented ‘important geographic ideas’ as a bank towards the back of the syllabus which were generated to underpin the core prescription and locally selected school studies. In this respect they served the purpose of what Liz Taylor (2008) and more recently Claire Brooks (2013) call ‘organisational concepts’. The purpose was not to necessarily share these with students (although some teachers may have), but to be used in curriculum planning. The 1990 syllabus is important as it helps visualise the difference between a key concept (for example, ‘pattern’) and a more elaborate conceptual understanding, in which the connection between two or more concepts is presented as a propositional statement. For example, a conceptual understanding may read “some spatial patterns are the result of people’s organisational structures, either social, economic or political”. e.g., interaction takes place at different scales and with varying degrees of intensity and complexity e.g. Changes, such as destruction or development, may be viewed as good or bad according to the value judgements of the people involved Source: MoE 1990

4 2007: ‘slimmed down’ geography framework
Year 11 Understand that natural and cultural environments have particular characteristics and how environments are shaped by processes that create spatial patterns. Understand how people interact with natural and cultural environments and that this interaction has consequences. Year 12 Understand how the processes that shape natural and cultural environments change over time, vary in scale and from place to place, and create spatial patterns. Understand how people’s perceptions of and interactions with natural and cultural environments differ and have changed over time. Year 13 Understand how interacting processes shape natural and cultural environments, occur at different rates and on different scales, and create spatial variations. Understand how people’s diverse values and perceptions influence the environmental, social, and economic decisions and responses that they make. (Source: MOE, 2007) As part of curriculum review, school based curriculum design has become the central focus for New Zealand teachers over the last decade. This was encouraged by a vastly slimmed down curriculum framework in 2007, in which geography in the senior secondary school has been reduced to 2 achievement objectives at each level. It is here that the conceptual focus of secondary school geography is most clearly signalled. In order to follow the progression, rather than reading the two achievement objectives at each Year level, it is easier to follow the line of conceptual development by reading the first bullet point of each year level, followed by the second bullet point at each successive level.

5 Seven key concepts Environments Perspectives Processes Patterns
May be natural and/or cultural. They have particular characteristics and features which can be the result of natural and/or cultural processes. The particular characteristics of an environment may be similar to and/or different from another. Perspectives Ways of seeing the world that help explain differences in decisions about, responses to, and interactions with environments. Perspectives are bodies of thought, theories or worldviews that shape people’s values and have built up over time. They involve people’s perceptions (how they view and interpret environments) and viewpoints (what they think) about geographic issues. Perceptions and viewpoints are influenced by people’s values (deeply held beliefs about what is important or desirable). Processes A sequence of actions, natural and/or cultural, that shape and change environments, places and societies. Some examples of geographic processes include erosion, migration, desertification and globalisation. Patterns May be spatial: the arrangement of features on the earth’s surface; or temporal: how characteristics differ over time in recognisable ways. In order to clarify the conceptual focus of geography, teaching and learning guidelines have identified the seven ‘key concepts’, mirroring approaches to getting to the conceptual heart of school geography in England and Canada over the last decade and more recently Australia. (Source: MOE, 2010)

6 And a glossary of Māori concepts
Interaction Involves elements of an environment affecting each other and being linked together. Interaction incorporates movement, flows, connections, links and interrelationships. Landscapes are the visible outcome of interactions. Interaction can bring about environmental change. Change Involves any alteration to the natural or cultural environment. Change can be spatial and/or temporal. Change is a normal process in both natural and cultural environments. It occurs at varying rates, at different times and in different places. Some changes are predictable, recurrent or cyclic, while others are unpredictable or erratic. Change can bring about further change. Sustainability Involves adopting ways of thinking and behaving that allow individuals, groups, and societies to meet their needs and aspirations without preventing future generations from meeting theirs. Sustainable interaction with the environment may be achieved by preventing, limiting, minimizing or correcting environmental damage to water, air and soil, as well as considering ecosystems and problems related to waste, noise, and visual pollution. And a glossary of Māori concepts In addition to the seven key concepts, a glossary of Maori concepts has also been available to teachers. e.g. Mana whenua: the right to use, manage and control land depends on the protection of mana whenua. Mana whenua is based on ahikä (Iwi maintaining residence in a particular place) and is an important part of tino rangatiratanga (self-determination). e.g. Taonga: is a resource either physical or cultural that can be found in the environment (including features within the environment e.g. lakes, mountains, rivers, also including people, te reo, whakapapa, etc.).

7 Differences in nomenclature
NZ England Geographical Concepts 2nd order (Brooks, 2013) / organisational (Taylor, 2008) / Grammar (Lambert & Morgan, 2005) Geographical Terminology 1st order (Brooks, 2013) / substantive (Taylor, 2008) / Vocabulary (Lambert & Morgan, 2005) In New Zealand a distinction is made between geographical concepts and geographical terminology. We are not convinced that this is a very helpful distinction as much terminology is evidently conceptual. Geographical terms such as ‘Central Business District’, ‘obstacles to migration’ and ‘pyroclastic flow’ may have different levels of abstraction, but they are conceptual regardless. The major difference between these two terms has parallels with English geographical education literature.

8 In a context of school-based curriculum design, how are teachers approaching concept-led geography?
We set out to ask the question “In a context of school based curriculum design, how are teachers approaching concept-led geography?”. We decided to hone in on a small group of teachers who had indicated that they were going to form a community of practice, with the support of an adviser, in order to design a revised scheme of work based on ‘extreme natural events’. Such a topic is universally taught at Year 11 in NZ secondary schools (Le Heron et al, 2010). While the conceptual framework is broadly consistent across schools the contextual detail may differ as classes variously study earthquakes in Christchurch and/or Haiti, Tropical Cyclones in Nuie or Tsunami in Samoa etc. Our research methodology was dictated by the constructivist stance we took to the teachers’ making meaning of their experiences during their planning session. Thus we used semi-structured interviews to elicit responses which balanced the need to keep focused on the idea of a concept-led approach to teaching and learning, while having the flexibility to honour and follow teachers’ lines of thinking during the interviews. In the following slides we emphasise the key findings from these interviews, before offering our collective thoughts on the place of concepts in New Zealand school geography.

9 Teachers believe concepts deepen learning
Students are supported to make connections and transfer their geographical understanding to different settings: They can take this understanding, that they’ve got about ‘environments’, ‘change’, whatever it might be, and then transpose it to a different setting, context, whatever; and isn’t that what we want from our geographers, to be able to do that? [Pania] Concepts lift above myriad factual detail to a level of understanding that helps make sense of an information-rich world (Erikson 2002, 2007): You’re always trying to remind yourself that it’s not the context necessarily that’s the important part - it’s these things that you are learning in that context, and that’s the essential part of your teaching and that’s the knowledge that you want them to have. Because that’s what they carry through life, they might forget the topic but if they remember the concepts then they’re geographers. [Michelle]

10 Teachers see concept clarification as an important approach
Focused on the relationship between terminology and key concepts: For example with Tongariro [National Park] , we would say “What’s a process?” Ok, orographic rainfall is a process, with the rain shadow effect; so when you were talking about processes that have changed the environment, this is an example you would use. [Wendy] Tied to the imperative of students succeeding in exams: Certainly for external practice, the important geographic ideas are very important to us at year 11, 12, and 13. We have exercises around learning these: so matching exercises, drawing diagrams to represent them…you can’t have a geographical conversation about something without mentioning one of these… [Michelle] Clarity over a ‘concept’, but confusion over ‘conceptual understandings’ Personally, I didn’t feel that I grasped enough what a conceptual understanding was, and how to confidently go away and do it.[Wendy] I think that the conceptual understanding was where we thought, ‘what the heck does that mean?’ I mean, you’ve got the concepts, [but] what is that? [Michelle]

11 But grappling with concepts as an organisational tool for planning and teaching
So I suppose the challenge for me is that I don’t want to teach a list of concepts, I want to try and have a big idea, and the kids have some conceptual understandings from that…so I’m thinking of doing environments for term 1, and change for term 2, and then I’ll slot the achievement standards – parts of them – into that. Or maybe the whole thing. [Wendy] I think there’s a couple of different levels of concepts; I think there’s the big concepts, and there’s the little ones that you need to understand to get there. So concepts such as ‘environment’, and ‘patterns’, and ‘change’, are obviously very crucial, but over the last two years with my year 11 course, I’ve based it around the big concept of globalisation; more because I really feel that we’re trying to prepare students for this big global world that they’re heading into. [Martin]

12 Our uncertainties (1) Selection: similar international approaches indicate the contestability of geography’s ‘key’ concepts. pattern is a compound of other concepts such as place, location and distance. (2) Alignment between curriculum documents concepts in the achievement objectives not among the key disciplinary concepts: scale at Level 7 and decision-making at Level 8 conversely sustainability is a notable absence in the achievement objectives

13 (3) Application: concepts and ideas as a ‘bolt on’ to planning, teaching and learning. Evident in two types of teaching practice: Concepts/Important geographic ideas used in planning to indicate curriculum compliance Concepts and important geographic ideas used for examination preparation. Activities in one key text reflect typical approaches, e.g.: match the ideas to their meanings and examples, and create their own definitions and symbols as an aid to memory. The focus is therefore on defining and identifying concepts rather than their centrality to geography thinking.

14 (4) Representation through assessment materials
Geographic concepts and terminology a necessary condition of ‘comprehensive’ answers, rather than at all levels of achievement. High visibility of key concepts in exams positions them as: an outcome of the curriculum rather than tools through which to achieve the ends (Brooks, 2013). an ‘end point’ - another type of fact rather than being changeable, contextual, contested and amenable to geographic inquiry at all levels (Milligan & Wood, 2010). a matter of application rather as part of inter-connected bundles of concepts…

15 Year 11 – Extreme Natural Events
Year 12 – Large Natural Environment

16 Deep Vs Surface Learning
Deep Understanding (Transforming) Surface Understanding (Reproducing) Relate ideas Routine memorization Use evidence Incoherent listing of information Interest in ideas & monitoring understanding Disconnected ideas Explanations argued with evidence Brief derivative descriptions Individual conception of the topic Syllabus-bound focus on minimum requirement Intention to seek meaning for themselves Intention to cope minimally with work requirements Although conceptual understanding is often associated with the type of deep learning advocated by Bransford et al, we are suggesting that the approach to concepts in geography, largely through its treatment in the assessment system, is, perversely, more akin to surface understanding. Bransford et al., (2000)

17 A suggestion URBAN PATTERNS
Concept-field approach to planning, teaching and learning (after Milligan & Wood, 2010) URBAN PATTERNS Process Time Scale Spatial Patterns Rapid Slow Continuity Change Policy cycles Intermittent

18 References Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R.R. (2000) How People Learn. Washington, D.C. National Academy Press Brooks, C. (2013). How do we understand conceptual development in school geography? In D. Lambert & M. Jones (Eds.), Debates in Geography Education. Abingdon, Oxon.: Routledge. Erickson, H. L. (2002). Concept-based curriculum and instruction: teaching beyond the facts. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press Inc. Erickson, H. L. (2007). Concept-based curriculum and instruction for the thinking classroom. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press. Morgan, J. & Lambert, D. (2005) Geography: Teaching school subjects London: Routledge. Milligan, A., & Wood, B. (2010). Conceptual understandings as transition points: Making sense of a complex social world. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 42(4), Ministry of Education. (1990). Syllabus for schools: geography forms 5-7 Wellington: Learning Media. Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media. Ministry of Education. (2010) The New Zealand Curriculum Guides: Geography Key Concepts retrieved from Taylor, L. (2008). Key concepts and medium term planning. Teaching Geography, 33(2),


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