“The best thing about geography is that it gives you the ability to gain an insight into the workings of our planet and all its abundant natural wonders…geography and geology give you this kind of long term perspective on what happened in the past, to influence our decision making in the future.” Professor Iain Stewart (Broadcaster and Academic).
An essential educational outcome of learning geography is to be able to apply knowledge and conceptual understanding to new settings; that is, to ‘think geographically’ about the changing world. Geography is concerned with perceptive and deep description of the real world. It has a vital place in the curriculum and helps us to understand our own lives in a global world and how to tackle world issues such as climate change, water, energy and food insecurity, poverty and political disputes and their implications.
Through studying Geography, our students develop an understanding of:
- The physical world
- Human environments
- Place and space
- People’s lives
Fieldwork is recognised as a vital part of the teaching of geography at all levels. Exposure to television, advertising and modern travel has extended learners’ awareness of other places and environments but nevertheless they often remain unobservant, uncritical and unchallenged. There is no substitute for ‘real world learning’. Our fieldwork provides rich opportunities for students, which are memorable and invaluable in helping our students better their understanding of the world.
At Key Stage 3, our curriculum is ambitious of that of the National Curriculum with the intent to develop contextual knowledge of the location of globally significant places (linking physical and human geography), by understanding the processes that give rise to physical and human geographical features of the world, as well as developing geographical skills (such as collecting and analysing data) which also developing the need to communicate geographical information in a variety of ways. Our assumption is that many year 7 students have limited experience of geography as a distinct subject. We therefore start our curriculum to impress the understanding of what is geography and why it is important. Both local and UK spatial awareness is promoted through locational awareness of key cities and physical features and landforms.
Choice of content:
- Varied topics often alternating physical and human geography, and consider the interrelations between the two.
- Development and use of skills throughout all topics. For example, map skills, which is distinctly covered at the start of KS3 and revisited in subsequent units.
- Addressing any gaps in knowledge or misconceptions.
- Progression of knowledge content for topics, including terminology and theory which then leads to the implications for humans and the planet, for example the study of weather which leads into climate change and the effects and responses in terms of mitigation/adaptation at various scales.
- The topics that are taught are core topics that provide relevance and importance to the lives of our students (both for now and in the future). For example, rivers related to flooding and climate change.
At KS4 and KS5 the intent is largely governed by the examination board specifications. At KS4, we have chosen the AQA specification which very clear division between physical and human geography (core geography) and a separate paper involving a pre-release document on an important geographical issue, whilst also assessed on fieldwork. This course allows students to demonstrate and apply high level skills such as assessment, analysis and evaluation. The few optional topics available have been carefully chosen to give both a balanced programme of study as well as cross curricular links (e.g. energy and science). In the specification content, students are required to study case studies and examples. Case studies are broader in context and require greater breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding. At KS5, students follow the Edexcel Geography specification which is engaging and relevant to today’s geographers – a qualification that enables our students to engage critically with real world issues and places, apply their own geographical knowledge, understanding and skills to make sense of the world around them, and to help prepare them to succeed in their chosen pathway. The specification offers an issues-based approach to studying geography, enabling students to explore and evaluate contemporary geographical questions and issues such as the consequences of globalisation, responses to hazards, water insecurity and climate change.
Whilst there is no prescribed model of teaching Geography, there are however common strategies and teaching methods in the implementation of the curriculum. Teachers have high expectations of pupils’ learning and, in their planning, ensure that pupils of all abilities, strengths and needs are given appropriate support and challenge. The sequence of lessons and activities are well planned, and teachers use a wide range of resources to ensure progressive learning and acquisition of skills in geography. The department makes use of traditional geography resources such as maps and atlases, so that students develop ‘real competence’ whilst at the same time make effective use of 21st century digital and web resources. Physical Geography in particular follows a logical progression within each topic, where processes and theory contribute to the formation of a feature. This requires a sequenced description and explanation (e.g. the formation of a waterfall), which requires use of high-level terminology. The interaction between physical and human geography has overarching themes within each topic also include causes, effects/impacts (social, economic and environmental), responses and sustainability. Our programmes of study begin with the development of key skills which are then revisited through the teaching of later topics (e.g. map skills). Studying of Geography also allows for integrated learning by bringing together skills from other subjects, for example mathematics. In all key stages, students are also taught graphical skills (such as drawing and reading of graphs) and numeracy and statistical skills (such as mean, median, mode, number, area, proportions, etc) which students are also tested on in their assessments.
Current topics taught are:
- Year 7: Introduction to Geography, Map Skills, Weather and Climate, Climate Change and Extreme Weather and Sustainability (including Rochester fieldtrip).
- Year 8: World Biomes (including Kew Gardens fieldtrip), Plate Tectonics, Russia and DME (Decision Making Exercise).
- Year 9: Development, The Economy, Rivers, and Rivers fieldwork
- Year 10: Rivers, Coastal Landscapes, Tectonics, Weather Hazards, Climate Change, Ecosystems, Tropical Rainforests, Cold Environments, and fieldtrip to Canterbury
- Year 11: Resource Management, Energy, Urban Challenges and Issues, Changing Economic World, and Pre-Release (Paper 3).
- Year 12: Globalisation, Tectonics Processes and Hazards, Regenerating Places and Coasts. Four days of fieldtrips for completion of Independent Investigation (Ebbsfleet, East London and Olympic Park, Reculver and Camber Sands).
- Year 13: Migration Identity and Sovereignty, Superpowers, Water and Water Insecurity, and Energy and Energy Insecurity.
Teachers provide opportunities for discussion that allow pupils to reflect upon and add depth to their understanding. The curriculum is designed to now only allow students to develop their geographical knowledge and understanding, but also develop geographical skills such as literacy, graphical, cartographic, etc. Learning is directed by questions, problems or challenges that students work to address. Students are encouraged to become more open thinkers, such as by challenging assumptions through debate and considering the ethical issues underpinning geographical change. Students are also motivated to make better sense of information, knowledge and ideas, such as examining evidence, considering alternative solutions and learning to distinguish fact from opinion. Decision making exercises are used in all key stages to allow students to use information and make decisions and evaluations based on information presented to them. At KS4, the ‘Geographical applications’ unit is designed to be synoptic in that students will be required to draw together knowledge, understanding and skills from the full course of study. It is an opportunity for students to show their breadth of understanding and an evaluative appreciation of the interrelationships between different aspects of geographical study. It combines critical thinking and problem-solving elements which requires students to have extended writing which will involve applying knowledge and understanding to interpret, analyse and evaluate information and make conclusions with evaluative judgements. Students are provided with tasks and activities that are designed to develop their understanding of the geographical topic and issues, and lesson time is subsequently spent teaching the content of the pre-release and discussions will focus on analysing the material so to be able to write critically and evaluatively.
Case studies provide real world, relevant examples and events, including facts and figures which enable comparisons to be made and assessments of the level of impact on people, the environment and the economy. Case studies are taught through detailed descriptions of real events, by using a range of resources such as documentaries, academic literature/texts and journals. Older case studies are compared to newer or more contemporary examples in order for students to develop as well-informed geographers and gain an appreciation of how context of location affects both impacts and responses. A knowledge of the changing nature and relevance of geography is reflected through up to date case studies and our students are encouraged to further develop this by a familiarity with geography in the news.
Fieldwork is incorporated in all key stages and forms an integral part of the subject’s curriculum. Students learn geographical skills within meaningful contexts and are given opportunities to use these skills in the ‘real world ‘via fieldwork experience. Students attend a variety of locations for their fieldwork, which allow them to focus on both physical and human geography and the interrelationships. All fieldwork is complimented by work in the classroom on methodologies, data presentation, analysis, conclusion and evaluations. Fieldwork also helps students develop their long-term memory whilst providing them with experiences of the world beyond the classroom. Fieldwork motivates students and encourages enthusiasm for the subject.
A revision programme and tasks formulate an integral part of the curriculum, particularly at KS4 and KS5. The programmes are designed for students to structure and plan revision, whilst also enabling them to revisit previously learnt material whilst developing longer term memory. Students are continually required to retrieve previously learnt material, helping them to develop longer term memory which is often seen through ‘fast facts’ and/or starter questions.
Assessment in KS3 comprises of a variety of tasks, which support the teaching of the curriculum. The assessments are designed to not only test students’ memory, but also enable them to demonstrate the development of a range of skills, for example application, evaluation, analysis. Although the assessments are varied, they are also designed to ensure that students are well prepared for the start of GCSE. KS4 and KS5 assessments are typical of those experienced in the examination papers, usually comprising of mid and end of unit/topic assessment. All students receive feedback on their work (both peer and teacher, and verbal and written), and close attention is given to improvements to their work in order to address gaps in students’ knowledge and skills. In all key stages, thorough feedback is given to students in order to check understanding effectively, and also so they understand their own areas of strength and where can be improved. Extension tasks are offered to all students, both as a class activity or as guidance outside the classroom. The department has access to a wide range of texts and literature and can use these resources to both extend knowledge and challenge pupils’ understanding. Particularly in KS5, students are encouraged to read beyond the subject and are supported with a list of key literature pieces to read. These texts often allow students to make connections to other subjects such as Politics, Economics and History, helping to bring together the content and skills from more than one subject area.
The Geography curriculum is designed to be inclusive and make geographical learning meaningful for all students, which promotes equal opportunities and access for all students. The department uses a variety of teaching strategies to encourage all students to actively participate in lessons. Geography offers a range of fieldtrips in each key stage, which help to bridge the divide between the classroom and the real world and provides a means of contextualising students’ learning and contributing to students’ cognitive development. Knowledge organisers are used for each module of learning to help students consolidate learning whilst helping learners engage more areas of their brain and employ higher order thinking skills to facilitate recall and understanding. The use of language is an integral part of learning geography and literacy skills are important geographical understanding. To help students with the acquisition and application of disciplinary literacy, the Geography department deploy various strategies such as breaking down complex writing tasks, scaffolding and structuring extended writing tasks, targeted and supportive questioning, opportunities for structured talk and providing appropriate and complex academic texts. Lesson materials and additional resources are shared for use both in the classroom and at home, which further enables students to continually revisit previously learnt materials and extend their geographical knowledge.
Additionally, the following also contributes to successful implementation in Geography:
- Staff contribute to the design of the curriculum and share experiences and resources. Staff are passionate about the subject and are inspired by a clear sense of the subject’s educational benefits.
- The dynamic and changing nature of the subject lends well to the discussion and debate in the classroom. Students are able to offer opinions, question and critique in both verbal and written work.
- Students and staff closely follow schemes of work and syllabus.
- The department continues to be a member of key subject bodies such as The Royal Geographical Society and The Geographical Association. The enables the department to keep up to date with subject developments, including publications, courses and advise on curriculum.
- The department was awarded with the GA Geography Quality Mark which shows continued self-development and reflection.
- Key terminology is an integral part of the learning of the topics. There are high expectations for spelling, punctuation and grammar, which are tested within the assessments at all levels.
- Homework is set regularly, and tasks are linked to the lesson and programme of study, whilst developing geographical knowledge and understanding and/or skills.
The impact of Geography is evident through the following:
- Students in all Key Stages enjoy studying Geography, which is evident through their behaviour in lessons, quality of work in their books and files, and observations of teaching/lessons, as well as the results of the regular pupil surveys.
- At Key Stage 3, a development of Geographical Skills is built up before GCSE. By the end of Key Stage 3, all students are able to think geographically, and be knowledgeable citizens who are aware of our own local communities in a global setting.
- Fieldwork is experienced at all key stages and in most year groups. It continues to be an integral and essential part of the curriculum and enables students to see first-hand the nature of geography and to know more about the outside world. Students are able to remember through practical experiences and memories.
- The department continues to attract high numbers into GCSE and A-Level, whereby normally having 5 or 6 classes at KS4 and two at KS5.
- Students at KS5 are more greatly exposed to independently learning, particularly through the engagement of the Independent Investigation (coursework). This requires students to establish a geographical enquiry which is tested, presented, analysed and evaluated. Students demonstrate increased levels of confidence and competence in independent work together with ‘thinking like a geographer’. This is also evident in the A-Level Paper 3, Synoptic Themes where students respond to unseen material, again requiring them to demonstrate understanding of the geographical themes and concepts.
- Students develop an understanding of how to live sustainably, including fundamental British values; there are a whole range of SMSC implications and links to other subjects such as Politics, Economics, History and English.
- Geography curriculum helps our students to become responsible citizens whom are aware of their surroundings; this is achieved through successful, contemporary and relevant schemes of work and fieldwork.
- Students moving on to study the subject/relatable disciplines
- The awarding of the GA’s Secondary Geography Quality Mark (2017-2020) illustrates the effectiveness of promoting, celebrating and improving geographical learning.
- Geography is an inclusive subject and provision has been put in place for all SEN students, including accessibility issues in wheelchairs, groupings for students, provision and deployment of support staff; all SEN students are actively involved in all aspects of fieldwork.