School of Education University of Brighton. A case study focused around the question How do geography teachers construct the geography curriculum at key stage 3?. Interviews Questionnaires Analysis of documentation. Interviewees allowed to talk freely on the
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School of Education University of Brighton
A case study focused around the question How do geography teachers construct the geography curriculum at key stage 3?
Interviews Questionnaires Analysis of documentation
Interviewees allowed to talk freely on the subject of the construction of the key stage 3 geography curriculum. A list of questions for backup if needed.
Questionnaires are rarely objective Knowing the PGCE students quite well I felt I was able to make a useful interpretation of their questionnaire responses. (Insufficient time for in-depth interviews)
Classroom and departmental observations are at best a snapshot of the reality of the department. Documentation can also be misread and mis- interpreted.
Shortcomings of methods & methodology acknowledged. Professional judgement comes into play (as with Ofsted inspections) Variety of methods reinforces validity.
School A It was my perception this department needed to revise its KS3 curriculum Also reflected in the most recent Ofsted report.
Department achieves around 50% A-C GCSE Basic text for KS3 original Waugh series. HoD only interested in exam. classes. 1500 pupils: 2 GCSE groups 12 taking geography A-level
Student on first placement at this school at a tiny school for second placement :4 GCSE groups. In his limited opinion he felt that ‘the approach at key stage 3 in his first placement school was putting pupils off selecting it at examination level’.
School B Limited experience in KS3 geography for pupils. Opening comment ‘I like having PGCE students as I can use the money to buy new sets of text books. Proudly pointing to his new set of Waugh books.
Has moved on through the influence of PGCE students. Thinking skills activitiesICT
School C Lack of awareness of poor practice in geography his own county, although he has remit to visit other schools and run workshops. Insight I get when my students actually work within departments is a privilege.
Department scheme of work :verydetailed but not prescriptive No non-specialists teaching the subject 1400 pupils (no 6th form) 7 GCSE geography groups
School DNew, young HoD in post 12 months when interviewed.Most recent Ofsted weaknesses in geography:- limited use of ICT to support the teaching of the subject- the use of a number of part-time staff to cover geography lessons
First job-dusted off lap & data-projector which had never been used! • He believes he revitalised pupils’ interest in the subject by use of very basic technology in his lessons • ‘The fun had been taken out of geography. There were only 23 pupils taking the subject at GCSE. There was very little cross-over from key stage 3 to GCSE which I think is a fairly good indicator that they did not enjoy the subject in years 7,8 & 9’ .
Made immediate changes: • Year 7 ‘capture’ pupils interest ‘having fun with maps’. • Year 8 360 Geography based around a new set of texts • Year 9 ‘development’ around current issues G8 & Live Aid (‘ditched use of old texts) • Units on sport & crime being developed.
GCSE geography uptake increased from 23 to 50 for September 2005 (yr 9 options made in Feb.2005 after 6 months in post) • Wants 3 by Sept 2006 to convince SMG that another full time geographer should be employed. • Very noticeable how many times he used the word ‘fun’ when talking about his aims with the geography curriculum
PGCE Questionnaires • Frequent references to case study work within schemes of work relating to Kenya, France, Brazil, Bangladesh. • Use of videos 20 years old including China’s Child. Pupils transfixed by fashions, hairstyles and technology; miss the geography!
Virtually every department where data was collected has the Waugh series in current use; some departments are still using the 1992 version. • One school; pedagogy more important than content. The exception to the rule; feedback from students and the interviews with heads of department, reveal an emphasis on content not pedagogy.
Pedagogy given more attention in ‘challenging’ schools; perception that where behaviour is an issue, pedagogic approaches need more detailed attention. • ‘Dry’ subjects such as farming and rivers brought to life if a field trip is included. • Consensus that a topic maintained for too long; pupils became bored. A case study of the USA, lasted nearly half the year; pupils became bored. Other over-long topics: rivers, coasts, farming, Kenya, France, Brazil and deforestation, Bangladesh and flooding.
Generally there was flexibility to deal with issues as they arose (e.g. Boxing day tsunami) • When the Iraq war broke out, one of my students was told he must not spend any time on it as ‘we must get through the syllabus on coasts’.
There was much less emphasis on the Waugh series of books in my second placement school where the uptake at GCSE was much greater than in the first placement school. • I tried to be‘inventive’in approach but the year 9’s especially worked much better if they were just given questions to work through in a book. This is what they are used to and they were resistant to change; had they been exposed to other forms of teaching on a regular basis from year 7, they might have been more receptive. • The year 10 GCSE group numbered 25 pupils in a school of 1600 pupils from year 7-11. This is probably a reflection of the way the key stage 3 geography curriculum is constructed and delivered in this particular school’.
Documentation and Observation • Majority of schemes reviewed still cling to 1991 structure. • USA & Japan still there. • Italy and France predominate EU study. • Bangladesh the most commonly used country with regard to flooding • Kenya and Egypt (LEDCs)
Most schemes of work reflect a split of geography into human, physical and environmental • Schemes of work looked at nearly all have a section called ‘skills’; which seem to be taught in isolation
Conclusion and reflection • Earlier research; an expectation about subject content • This project ;an expectation about pedagogy • Pupils talked about pedagogy; teachers talked about subject content • Mis-match in perceptions led to a conference ‘Reinvigorating key stage 3 geography’ • So successful another one this July; planning for the new Geography National Curriculum
Does subject content dictate the construction of the curriculum at key stage 3? Have heads of geography neglected pedagogy when constructing the key stage 3 geography curriculum? Should heads of department be able to intertwine their subject expertise with pedagogy, which Shulman (1986) claims is essential for effective and successful teaching and learning? Is there evidence that departments are most successful where a balance between subject content and pedagogy exists, and vice versa?
“The world’s a wonderful place; how can geography teachers make it so boring” (Germaine Greer cited in Molyneux & Tolley 1987,10) It does indeed take a very special kind of talent, said Gerald, to make such a subject as geography dull. A toast: to the extinction of geography teachers. They all drank. (Hart 1999, 53)
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