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Curriculum Making in Primary Geography

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1 Curriculum Making in Primary Geography
Westminster Institute of Education Curriculum Making in Primary Geography Professor Simon Catling Geographical Association Annual Conference, Progress in Geography, University of Surrey. Saturday April 16th, 2011.

2 Brief reflections on primary geography ‘today’
Ofsted’s geography report indicates some improvement in primary geography teaching since 2008, though concerns remain. We are in a period of uncertainty about geography’s place in the primary curriculum – and what will be in its programmes of study. Studies of place(s) and environmental change and sustainable presents and futures are key aspects of geographical study. In an increasing number of primary schools the curriculum is becoming less subject-bound, with greater integration. There are some signs that geography loses out in cross-curricular topics. Indications are that schools’ engagement with subject associations and professional developments drops off as budgets tighten. Research into children’s geographies indicates that children more often are geographically experienced and aware than is made use of in school – and that they may misunderstand aspects of their world. Westminster Institute of Education

3 Curriculum Making in the UK: A succinct history
‘Curriculum making’ is not a new idea, but its meaning is evolving. From 1960s to 1980s primary teachers had responsibility for their own school and class curriculum. During this period geography was often not well taught (if at all) and in decline. From 1988/1991 National Curriculum geography in primary schools was required and enabled improvements. But geography teaching became increasingly based on government and commercial guidance and ‘units of work’. By the early 2000s this ‘curriculum delivery’ approach had became entrenched through government primary national curriculum strategies. Yet from 2003 the government encouraged primary schools to be more creative and to make learning more stimulating and enjoyable!!! By the late 2000s increasingly primary schools were taking ownership of their curriculum, including geography, but many schools still needed to be encouraged to be creative and develop geography units of work worth teaching and which enthused the children. Westminster Institute of Education

4 Living Geography From The Geographical Association initiated projects in the context of Living Geography and Curriculum Making. The Young Geographers Project was one such project. Living Geography Living Geography pushes for geography teaching to become ‘alive’ for children. Some core principles of living geography are: embracing children’s and young people’s everyday geographies; being current and futures oriented; often ‘local’, but always set in the wider (global) context; investigating changing environments/places; encouraging critical understanding of sustainable development. Westminster Institute of Education

5 Curriculum Making The idea of ‘curriculum making’, as currently espoused in geography, involves balancing: Geography as a subject: developing children’s understanding of geography’s key ideas; Children’s geographical experiences: drawing on children’s experiences, interests and understandings; The teaching repertoire: teaching approaches and styles, developing motivation and interest. Curriculum making focuses on articulating, planning and organising medium term planning – units of work. It concerns the focus, objectives and coherence of planning. It invites teachers to take responsibility for creating and developing geography units and encourages the involvement of children in this process. It is about rigour, openness and opportunity. Westminster Institute of Education

6 The Geographical Association’s Young Geographers Project
The Young Geographers Project was initiated and run in 2008. It focused on a unit of work, for a term. It emphasised five key aspects: engaging in practical ‘curriculum making’ – creating a class-based geography topic; using the motivation of ‘living geography’; engaging in learning outside the classroom; focusing on education for sustainable development; encouraging local solutions – providing for what will be most appropriate in and for the school situation. 20 committed geography subject leaders in two cohorts in the north and south of England engaged in this TDA-funded pilot Geography CPD Project led by the GA’s two primary geography leaders. Westminster Institute of Education

7 Planning focus areas Knowledge and understanding of patterns and processes. – Identify and describe what places are like. Knowledge and understanding of environmental change. – Make observations about where things are located. Recognise changes in the environment, e.g where broken glass has caused a hazard. Key Questions What is it like to live in my locality? (Southborough) How can I observe and record features of my locality in an entertaining and thought provoking way? How can I record locations on a map and plan and use this to find locations during fieldwork? How is the environment around me changing and how has it become the way it is? What is my perception of places in Southborough and how have these changed during the making of the film? Geographical skills Fieldwork? Identify locations within Southborough that present dangers or difficulties for pedestrians. Use maps and plans to mark a route to visit these locations and use them as film locations to re-tell a narrative story. Visit locations and record film footage. Record environmental hazards and dangers with photography and sketches. Identify the causes of some of the environmental hazards in Southborough. Aspects of ESD Economic, Environmental, Social / 8 doorways / ESD concepts. Recognise how the environment is influenced and affected by human activity. Recognise how aspects of the environment can be sustained, developed and improved. Links with other curricular areas Literacy - linked to Year 2 Narrative unit on traditional tales. Production of multimodal texts using images and sound. Links to speaking and listening, reading and narrative writing elements of Literacy. ICT - use of digital recording equipment for capturing images and sound. Basic editing techniques taught as an extension activity where appropriate. Design Technology - design of DVD cover for film product. Music - percussion performance for sound effects. Resources Digital video camera and tripod, Costumes and simple sets for interiors. Apple Macbook laptop with Imovie for editing and IDVD for burning. Audacity for sound editing. Audio Network sound library for sound effects and music score. Edirol digital voice recorder for recording of narrative. The True Story of Little Red Riding Hood - A Geographical Adventure through Southborough What do I want pupils to get out of this? Jonathon Kersey

8 Year 2 children’s comments on some local environmental hazards
What the children learnt More fully about their perception and understanding of their places; More about hazards/dangers in the local area and how to avoid them; To express better their own views about real concerns; To work together to use fieldwork and maps to locate, decide on and record a journey and sites where hazards were; To develop script writing, camera and film editing skills. Their teacher thought that next time they would also look at positive aspects of the local environment! Westminster Institute of Education

9 Year 4’s valuing of local outdoor learning and of connections through sustainability to the wider world “The children began to see the outdoor environment as an important part of their learning, appreciating the out-of-doors, and made thoughtful suggestions as to how it can be used to further enhance the teaching and learning across a variety of curriculum areas. It was possible to take the children on a short trip around the village to continue to think about how to improve the environment on a local scale. As the children developed their own understanding, it was possible to extend the study outwards to look at the global implications and sustainability – thinking about how to meet our current needs without comprising the needs of future generations. This aspect of the project was given great purpose by all the children thinking about the issues around recycling for our link school in Ghana, looking at how materials can be used to create souvenirs and provide income. I have learnt the value of fieldwork for all children for giving them first-hand experience from which they can become active and informed decision makers, supporting their ideas with a secure understanding. The children’s own attitudes have changed and they now see real purpose in learning about the local environment and have developed an appreciation for the local area and wider world. They have seen their initial ideas developed into a working plan.” Lisa Wright, Year 4 teacher Westminster Institute of Education

10 Year 3’s sharing of their place with others elsewhere in the World
A child-led topic “We have just established links with a school in Tanzania and the children are keen to find out about school life and the life of the children in Tanzania. Based on this we decided that it would be nice to send a book to Tanzania that tells them about our school and our lives. This was a very child-led project with the children choosing the location visited as places that were important to them and their lives. We did map work and field work, both in and outside the school. This was a project that was thoroughly enjoyed by the children.” Our evaluation “The children were very enthusiastic from the outset and the project was led by them and their enthusiasm. I was surprised by how interested they were in their local area and the perceptions they have of it. I was surprised by the children’s ability to sequence photographs and identify areas from photographs that they have visited and then locate them on a map. Most of the children needed a starting point (the school) highlighting on the map and they were able to find the streets they lived on, the park, plan a route to the shops and the main high street. They proved to be very critical thinkers and this project promoted the use of geographical vocabulary.” Jemma Leach, Year 3 teacher Westminster Institute of Education

11 Emergent Curriculum Making: Contextual Dynamics
Permission to do something different: Teachers tried new approaches and took risks in their geography teaching. Head teacher permission: Active support by the head teacher, allowing teachers the flexibility to be creative, change direction and develop new avenues for study. Curriculum purpose and value: Clarity of purpose and of focus in the geography curriculum making project helped teachers bring the project alive for themselves and the children. Children as active and informed curriculum agents: Teachers found that with the children working as active team contributors the geography projects came alive, developed more fully and were more rigorous. Teachers sharing: Teachers felt that using informal and formal (technology-based) networks, in and beyond their school, to share and discuss their ideas, experiences and outcomes was mutually supportive and encouraging. In-service learning for colleagues: Teachers provided or planned interest-based in-school geography CPD for colleagues. Westminster Institute of Education

12 Emergent Curriculum Making: Subject Dynamics
Children’s everyday geographies: Teachers’ recognised and used children’s personal place and environmental awareness/knowledge. Undertaking local fieldwork: Through undertaking fieldwork locally teachers realised its potential for investigations and to motivate the children and themselves. Subject knowledge confidence: Through using and developing their knowledge and understanding of sustainable development, teachers realised that their geographical subject knowledge is a powerful and important factor in effective teaching. Children’s subject values: Through the project children developed a deeper sense of the purpose and value of working outside, their locality and care for it – their geographical learning. The children’s effect: Children’s enthusiasm made geography more visible in school to everyone. Being public about geographical studies: Keeping colleagues and children across the school informed about their geography project through displays, presentations and reports. Westminster Institute of Education

13 Teacher control and responsibility
Curriculum making proved to be a liberating, demanding and much valued context and approach. Teachers felt they regained control of the subject and the curriculum, while centrally involving the children. They had a positive attitude and willingness to take curriculum responsibility, to use opportunities and to seek solutions to problems. They recognised the children’s capability and potential, engaged them in topic development and held high expectations of them. They realised the value of learning outside the classroom. They were willing to be innovative and creative in their approaches. However…. Time for geography teaching remained a constraint and frustration for teachers. Westminster Institute of Education

14 Lessons from the Young Geographers Project for Curriculum Making
Limit your planning: plan partially, for flexibility, adaptability and creativity. Be open to discussion, responsive to opportunities and challenges, take risks, diverge from plans, reflect critically on what works and does not. Have confidence in the children: harness their interests and enthusiasm, engage them in discussions and decisions about direction and focus, and involve them in the planning and organising of activities – work with children as active curriculum agents. As a teacher, be confident in yourself as a learner. Recognise that it is vital to understand the subjects you teach. Be a good listener and observer, and respond to and lead children’s learning to engage and develop their subject understanding. Provide experiential learning in and outside the classroom, engaging children actively and practically with topics that have meaning and impact for all involved. Westminster Institute of Education

15 Messages from Ofsted’s 2011 review for Curriculum Making
Essentially, the ‘messages’ for curriculum making in geography can be drawn from comments on good and outstanding teaching. Keep the focus on geographical learning and understanding, using clear questioning and references to a lesson’s and unit’s purpose. Use ‘real and recognizable places’ and ‘meaningful geographical contexts’ to investigate local and global topics and issues. Have high expectations of children’s geographical learning and support and challenge all, affirming with them what they have learnt. Plan lessons and activities, as well as the sequences of lessons, well. Make effective use of an enquiry/discovery approach. Ensure good quality teacher-child and child-child interaction through ‘opportunities for discussion’. Be enthusiastic, knowledgeable about the topic, explain clearly and anticipate and tackle misconceptions. Make effective use of formative assessment. Westminster Institute of Education

16 Responding to the Curriculum Making challenge
The messages from the GA’s geography CPD developments include: Identify, understand and utilise/challenge what children know or misunderstand/misappreciate. Personalise for your school and children ‘standard’ (QCDA) units of work – better still develop your own for/with your children. Be imaginative, creative and stimulating. Take risks in your planning and teaching, going beyond the expected. Take opportunities: do not be hide-bound by your geography scheme. Actively engage in controversial and topical issues and topics. Move beyond the Curriculum2000 Geography Programmes of Study requirements (published in 1999 – so last century!). Encourage self-directed learning through projects within geography topics, having a clear geography focus and criteria. Feed in resources appropriately to stimulate new thinking, provide new lines of enquiry, ensure progress in the learning, challenge ideas being developed…. Westminster Institute of Education

17 Developing geography CPD
There is evident need for teachers for funded primary geography CPD. There are limited face-to-face opportunities. Teachers are using the internet to find resources and support. The Geographical Association has been involved in developing a number of CPD programmes both face-to-face and on its website: Exemplar case studies: Projects like the YG Project which show through teacher reports what they did and achieved; The provision of specific CPD geography courses for primary geography leaders and primary teachers, using examples of teachers’ geography projects with other teaching ideas; The development of on-line networks for primary teachers to join, such as the geography ning, and to use, eg geography champions; Using or entering for the Primary Geography Quality Mark to develop whole school geography teaching. Westminster Institute of Education

18 Some Questions for primary geography’s future
The Curriculum Review is stated to aim for leaner subject requirements, and be knowledge-based (information-based?). It may sequence subject requirements across key stages. There are intimations that teachers should be supported through CPD – vital for primary geography. If it is slimmer, can we take the opportunity to make the geography curriculum more our own? If it is more information-oriented, are we imaginative enough to be creative, exciting and challenging in making our geography teaching and curriculum? If funded, how can we encourage and engage many more teachers in undertaking Geography CPD using web and face-to-face sessions and materials, and schools to join the GA? If we believe in children’s voice, how will we continue and develop their participation in geography curriculum making? Westminster Institute of Education

19 Some connected resources
Catling, S (2008), Young Geographers: A Living Geography Project for Primary Schools – An Evaluation Report, Oxford Brookes University/Geographical Association. DES (1989) Aspects of Primary Education: The Teaching and Learning of History and Geography. London: HMSO DfES (2003) Excellence and Enjoyment: A strategy for primary schools. Annesley: DfES Publications. Geography Teaching Today (2010) Curriculum Making. Lambert, D & Morgan, J (2010), Teaching Geography 11-18, Maidenhead: Open University Press. Mitchell, D (ed) (2009), Living Geography, Cambridge: Chris Kington Publishing. Ofsted (2011) Geography: Learning to make a world of difference, The Young Geographers Project: Making geography happen: Geography CPD on-line: My place, Your place, Our place: Primary Geography Quality Mark: Westminster Institute of Education

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