What should we be teaching? Dr Grant Kleeman Senior Lecturer in Education Macquarie University – Sydney
Geography: What should we be teaching? The nature of curriculum The nature of curriculum Key considerations/issues Key considerations/issues A personal view A personal view Discussion Discussion As a young man, my fondest dream was to become a geographer. However, while working in the customs office I thought deeply about the matter and concluded it was too difficult a subject. With some reluctance I then turned to physics as a substitute. Albert Einstein Presentation structure:
Underlying assumptions Geography curriculum documents, through their content and form, represent a particular construction of reality – the means by which a subset of all available geographical knowledge is selected and organised. They embody what Williams (1977) refers to as the selective tradition – someones selection, someones vision of legitimate knowledge and culture, one that in the process of enfranchising one groups cultural capital disenfranchises anothers.
Curriculum-related documents are the product of a series of trade-offs and compromises between competing positions and interests. They represent a consensus or settlements of contestations. There are – embedded in their underlying philosophy, their structure and wording – echoes or traces of the debates and, in some cases, conflicts that characterise the curriculum development process. Syllabuses as settlements of contestation
Thus: curriculum does not stand apart from the era and context in which it is developed curriculum does not stand apart from the era and context in which it is developed syllabus documents can be viewed as social and political artifacts, an analysis of which will reveal the social political power struggles that underpin their construction syllabus documents can be viewed as social and political artifacts, an analysis of which will reveal the social political power struggles that underpin their construction the process of curriculum construction is both complex and multidimensional the process of curriculum construction is both complex and multidimensional
Why does it matter? – Issues of identity Moore (2000) is among those who stress the link between the selection of curriculum content and identity with the former seen as being inextricably linked to competing representations of the nation and its heritage. Identity in this context refers to the ways in which people define themselves individually and collectively. What we know, affects who we are (or are perceived to be). Curriculum related controversies are becoming increasingly common – politicization of the curriculum – especially by those attracted to notions of social reconstructionism Curriculum related controversies are becoming increasingly common – politicization of the curriculum – especially by those attracted to notions of social reconstructionism.
Shifts in curriculum thinking (As noted by Andy Hargreaves) 1970s High degree of teacher discretion, choice and autonomy 1979 –1990s Schools torn between the age of autonomy and the emerging top-down, standards driven, agenda Result: Schools are increasingly preoccupied with testing rather than learning. But! Spaces of resistance spread, cynicism thrives and nostalgia pervades Nick Hutchinson.
Key considerations/issues To what extent should content be prescribed? – Content prescription versus teacher developed curriculum – Tendency towards greater prescription – driven by testing regimes and accountability mechanisms – How do we avoid curriculum inertia if we opt for less prescription? How is content to be organised? – Aims/objectives based – Outcomes-based – A curriculum focused and organised around clearly defined outcomes that students are expected to demonstrate on completion. Based on the assumption that there are a variety of ways in which students can demonstrate a mastery of content – Thematically-based (for example, environments and communities) – Conceptually-based (broad conceptual framework incorporating ideas such the interconnectedness of physical and human environments, place and place, scale, process, change, globalisation, ecological sustainability etc.) – The use of key questions
Selected curriculum construct Relevance/importance statement Relevance/importance statement Big ideas – provide the syllabuss conceptual framework Big ideas – provide the syllabuss conceptual framework Key processes in Geography – skills-based syllabus outcomes Key processes in Geography – skills-based syllabus outcomes Curriculum development criteria – this section provides guidance in terms of pupils experience/breadth of study/context. Curriculum development criteria – this section provides guidance in terms of pupils experience/breadth of study/context. Attainment targets ( a standards framework) Attainment targets ( a standards framework)
Key considerations/issues How do we accommodate the demands of marginalised and disadvantaged groups for a more inclusive set of curriculum arrangements? Content relevant to the experience and interests of marginalised and disadvantaged groups – problematic Content relevant to the experience and interests of marginalised and disadvantaged groups – problematic Mandated curriculum perspectives Mandated curriculum perspectives The National Geography Standards (1994) – developed jointly by the National Council for Geographic Education and the National Geographic Society – defines perspectives as points of view and ways of looking at the world. [A perspective] is one point of view among many competing ways of interpreting the meanings and experiences, events, places, persons, cultures, and physical environments. Having a perspective means looking at our world through a lens shaped by personal experience, selective information, and subjective evaluation. A perspective provides a frame of reference for asking and answering questions, identifying and solving problems, and identifying the consequences of alternative actions. It is essential to be aware that many perspectives exist and that learning to understand the world from many points of view enhances our knowledge and skills. (National Geographic Research and Exploration. Geography for Life: National Geography Standards, 1994, p. 57).
Geography syllabus documents in New South Wales define perspectives as: a way of viewing the world, the people in it and their relationship to each other and with their environments. In practice, this means that people will describe and explain geographical issues, features and processes differently. The perspectives or points of view a person holds will be influenced by a range of factors. These factors include age, gender, level of education, cultural and ethnic background and socioeconomic status (class).
Key considerations/issues What should be the entry point of study – the geographical process or issue? How do we get the right balance between physical and human geography? The relevance revolution of the 1980s resulted in an increased focuses on geographical issues. Has this been at the expense of students understanding and appreciation of geographical processes? Issue: Land degradation Geographical processes: – wind and water erosion – land clearing/habitat destruction – soil structure decline – salinity (types and causes) – water cycle – water table, infiltration,
Key considerations/issues To what extent should school geography reflect developments within academic geography? The former tends to be traditional, narrow and prescriptive while the later is more broad and increasingly diverse.
Key considerations/issues To what extent should the curriculum promote or even mandate inquiry-based methodologies? Inquiry-based methodologies facilitate classroom discussion and debate, and promote a deeper level of engagement with issues via critical thinking. The term critical thinking refers to the processes by which individuals use reflective thinking to gather, interpret and evaluate information in order to formulate an informed opinion or judgment. By developing students critical thinking skills we enhance their ability to identify, and perhaps challenge dominant discourses, and develop their capacity to evaluate various alternatives. Empowered by these understandings, the individual is better placed to act as an agent of social change, working towards the removal of inequalities and injustices. For this reason, critical thinking is often championed by interest groups with a progressive or reconstructionist agenda, but opposed, often vehemently, by conservative interests who either see such pedagogy as a threat to the status quo or as an obstacle to their own reconstructionist objectives.
Key considerations/issues What geographic skills are appropriate for this stage of learning? Identified using the Skills Framework & those commonly associated with the discipline Map related skills Map related skills Fieldwork Fieldwork Graphs and statistics Graphs and statistics Photographs Photographs Information and communication technologies (ICT) Information and communication technologies (ICT) Formatting, multiple-page documents containing web-links Developing simple databasesDeveloping simple databases Multimedia presentations and/or webpages Multimedia presentations and/or webpages Website evaluationWebsite evaluation Accessing, collecting and interpreting electronic information Accessing, collecting and interpreting electronic information
Key considerations/issues What (and how) do students want to learn? Always problematic because the labelling and social profiling of young people is ultimately determined by discourse-dominating elites whose own limited perspective overgeneralises and even distorts reality. Are, for example, all young people hedonistic, self-obsessed and consumption orientated? Are they too cool for school? Are they brand obsessed? Greater attention needs to be given to the lives and experiences of young people - their personal geographies. Has the direction of social change been away from the traditional values of deference to authority and attraction to community towards a more individualistic and self-centred set of social arrangements? If so, what are the implications for the selection of curriculum content?
Student interest What is studied (content)? - Perceived relevance - Ideally grounded in the students own life experience -Interesting – a touch of the exotic, place specific -Related to contemporary events where possible How it is studied (teaching and learning strategies, resources etc) - Active engagement - Challenging tasks that draw on their desire to enquire -Opportunities to explore alternative views, attitudes and values The teachers enthusiasm for Geography and his/her ability to provide quality teaching and learning. Cronulla race riots - a Geography of Sydneys racial diversity
Globalisation: Grounding abstract geographical concepts in the life experience of students
Key considerations/issues Promote a sense of optimism by including a focus on the actions of community- based groups, NGOs and governments that seek to address the impacts of global issues. How do we avoid the doom and gloom?
Recommendations Adopt a conceptual framework that provides geographical leadership and certainty while encouraging teacher autonomy (and student empowerment) through the choice of illustrative sample/case studies Adopt a conceptual framework that provides geographical leadership and certainty while encouraging teacher autonomy (and student empowerment) through the choice of illustrative sample/case studies Promote an issues-based approach but strengthen the emphasis given to the relevant geographical processes Promote an issues-based approach but strengthen the emphasis given to the relevant geographical processes Emphasise contemporary geographical issues at a range of scales – from the local to global Emphasise contemporary geographical issues at a range of scales – from the local to global Mandate enquiry-based methodologies especially those related to fieldwork and critical thinking Mandate enquiry-based methodologies especially those related to fieldwork and critical thinking Identify the geographical skills relevant to the stage of learning and them teach them within context Identify the geographical skills relevant to the stage of learning and them teach them within context Strengthen the spatial context of specific geographical phenomena/issues but be mindful of the need to adopt a broader definition of what constitutes spatial – For example, a community can be defined as an identifiable group interacting on the basis of shared space and/or social organisation. Strengthen the spatial context of specific geographical phenomena/issues but be mindful of the need to adopt a broader definition of what constitutes spatial – For example, a community can be defined as an identifiable group interacting on the basis of shared space and/or social organisation.
Content suggestions A study of the earths biophysical processes, especially those fundamental to our understanding of the diversity of global environments, contemporary environmental issues and natural hazards/disasters. A study of the earths biophysical processes, especially those fundamental to our understanding of the diversity of global environments, contemporary environmental issues and natural hazards/disasters. Utilitarian physical geography – e.g. weather and climate, ecosystem functioning Utilitarian physical geography – e.g. weather and climate, ecosystem functioning Spatial impacts of technological change Spatial impacts of technological change The process of economic and cultural integration (globalisation) and its impacts The process of economic and cultural integration (globalisation) and its impacts Cultural geography Cultural geography The processes (and impacts) of demographic and social change The processes (and impacts) of demographic and social change Global inequalities (including development, debt, aid and trade) Global inequalities (including development, debt, aid and trade) Global geographical issues (drawn from both the physical and human environments) Global geographical issues (drawn from both the physical and human environments) The unique physical and human environments of the UK The unique physical and human environments of the UK Factors causing change in UK communities Factors causing change in UK communities The UKs regional and global links The UKs regional and global links Future challenges – human rights, demographic change, global terrorism, immigration, sustainability and environmental management Future challenges – human rights, demographic change, global terrorism, immigration, sustainability and environmental management
References Moore, R. (2000). For knowledge: Traditions, progressivism and progress in education – reconstructing the curriculum debate. In D. Scott (Ed.). (2003), Curriculum studies: Major themes in education. London: RoutledgeFalmer. National Geographic Research and Exploration, Geography for Life, [American], (1994). National Geography Standards. Washington DC: National Geographic. New South Wales Board of Studies (1992). Geography Syllabus Years 7–10. Sydney: New South Wales Board of Studies. New South Wales Board of Studies (1999). Stage 6 Geography Syllabus. Sydney: New South Wales Board of Studies. Williams, R. (1977). Marxism and literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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