Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Curriculum Change and Notes from the GA 2015

What follows are a few headline notes form the GA Conference in Manchester; specifically focused on curriculum change for Geography in September 2016:

KEY DATES: 28th MAY 2015 - A Level Exam specs released
- AQA contact: Michelle Atherton - geography@aqa.org.uk
Launch event  (t.b.c -
- OCR  contact:Abi/Mark/Shelley - Geography@ocr.org.uk N.B Geography Journey Newsletter
Launch Event: Thursday 11th June 2015 (London) - Booking required - click here
- Eduqas contact: Andy/Alison - andy.owen@eduqas.co.uk / alison.doogan@eduqas.co.uk
- Edexcel contact:
Launch Event: 24th June 2015 (London) - Booking required - click here

FIELDWORK: Nick Lapthorn
I. Fieldwork skills will need to be built in throughout the key stages, if not already. It would be suggested that despite the removal of CA, students should still complete fieldwork days at GCSE (as they do currently for the CIE IGCSE). Having said this though, reflection must take place as to what constitutes purposeful fieldwork.
Point to consider:
 - Could IGCSE fieldwork questions come into KS3 projects to familiarise students with the thought process and build up their skill level?
 -  Need to write to S5/Deputy Head of Academic to gain support and outline the need for the days.
II. TIME & RESOURCES must be allocated/built into the school curriculum, if fieldwork is to be successful. This links to the 2 days mandatory fieldwork at AS and 4 days at A Level. LOCAL focus preferable.
Point to consider: Very likely that the fieldwork for AS takes place in the Autumn/early Spring term and the fieldwork for the A-Level takes place in the Summer term, post AS exams (or possibly at the start of the Autumn term of Year 13)
III. One point to consider for the A Level fieldwork is that students will ultimately have limited time and resources at their disposable, so they should be made aware of this. Fieldwork independent report will focus on the PROCESS as opposed to the OUTCOME. MISTAKES are ok.
Point to consider: Pilot survey for fieldwork report could be done as part of the Aske project i.e. a mini-proposal, which is then marked and assessed then carried out of the summer with the reflections?
IV. To support centres, the project will be able to done at one centre or site, and the data collected in a group but then there must be an individual - different reports or reports focusing on different hypotheses.
III. For International trips,the following destinations were discussed e.g. Iceland, Jordan, Morocco, Sicily etc. Also,  a 'pre-brief idea' was expressed as an excellent way of engaging students during fieldwork trips and adding value/purpose.

The Human content could be tricky to teach as it could have the problem of looking nice but in reality being a bit too fluffy and again, although exciting to resource, quite demanding and time consuming; my fear is that higher order thinking skills could be easy on the surface to address but challenging for the students to nail down when considering perspectives..but maybe the assessment will be clear and that this is a good example of differentiation...time will tell!

Simon Oakes, in his GA lecture 'Thinking Global and Looking Local' sought to allay our fears about the new 'fluffy' human core part of the specification: how do we teach it? what type of content will need to be covered/generated? how will it be assessed? etc.

I. PLACES  - Oakes stressed the importance of choosing a case study where both types of geography overlapped e.g. his example of the River Mersey and the changes over time from industrialisation to deindustrialisation was well-explained. He described using rivers as the central actor in his place narrative. The performance of a river changes over time (esp when considering the global shift in manufacturing). Scale also matters - who has the power to transform the landscape - STAKEHOLDERS and their local-global interrelationship.

N.B. In Oakes' opinion, A* students will not compartmentalise the social, cultural or environmental assets as separate entities but instead see them as INTERTWINED ENTITIES. e.g. "If you don't change the river, you will not change the economy".

i. GLOBAL INTERDEPENDENCE - key idea of uncertainty.
The study of the world's OCEANS would be a good example to teach globalisation through as ties in containerisation and undersea cables (telecommunications). Notions of impacts of mass consumption on fish stocks as well as impacts such as spills and risk, resistance, management and players at all scales.
ARCTIC and ENERGY with links to climate change / HOUSING MARKET
Technological leapfrogging in the form of capital or remittances  - Vodaphone's PISA scheme. Crowdsourcing.
iv. DIASPORA-Scotland and Ireland punch globally above their weight through their migrant networks.
v.LAWS AND NORMS -governance of cyberspace (not true that we live in a limitless shrunken world -cyberspace controls are good examples also idea of domestic control versus international control and scale of the operating networks.
vi. SOFT POWER  - global conflicts/disruptions

Finally to wrap things up Oakes discussed the importance of SYNOPTICITY...a word distinctly absent from the new specifications and the proposed core content....
Oakes suggested that the best way to teach the human content and to assess it would be through links to key concepts as well as a consideration of the role of rime and space...the photo below sums it up:

GA Conference 2015 - DANNY DORLING

The Geography of Elections - Danny Dorling


Dorling enticed a room full of geographers during the Conference's keynote address by using a series of maps to illustrate the polarisation of voting in the UK.

In particular, the following points are worth noting and thinking on...
i. The Conservative vote is becoming increasingly segregated at an unsustainable rate e.g. in 1918 - 17% and in 2010 - 17%; Dorling pointed out that whilst a degree of concentration was needed to win seats, in this case in the South East, too much concentration in certain areas would not win an election - hence the inevitable hung parliament on the horizon (a long term trend since the 1970s).
ii.If the Greens were savvy, they would rally students in key marginal seats in order to win more seats; as opposed to being thinly spread across the country and winning may be only one seat!
III. He then touched upon the fact that our vote only really counts in the marginal sears...

However, Dorling's key point was that 'WE' need to keep perspective and look at things from an international perspective to observe, and understand what actual radical change is possible - as opposed to the minority squabbles of keeping the centre status quo i.e. the 99% bowing to the whims of the 1% and letting the superich influence our politicians.

If you look at the politics of Europe; specifically comparing the distribution of voters for different parties it is clear that MUCH variation exists and that there are incalculable alternatives...a different (better) way of doing things?!

The recession was a watershed moment for many countries but not just in terms of economics, it catalysed in many countries a rejection of the incumbent politicians/parties and often was followed by a radical shift in either direction e.g. the rise of the right in France and that Greece is an excellent example of a dissatisfied populous looking for a workable and practicable alternative - it is worth noting that if the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) does not work, then Golden Dawn (XA) could come to power!

Dorling then moved away form the election to focus on scale and the global issues which we need to be more concerned with e.g. Europe as a Continent is shrinking in terms of its population (only currently topped up by the youthful Eastern Europe populous and migration to Western Europe.

At this juncture, Dorling moved onto looking at a series of maps from his colleague's, Ben Hennig's website: http://www.viewsoftheworld.net/

Reiterating that many UK citizens view the past with rose tinted spectacles and wish for the old days...especially those who were not alive during the period...this wistfulness and desire to return to the 'good old days of Empire and power', Dorling suggests, means that people look to blame anything that is different e.g. migrants - what Dorling refers to as the immigration narrative.

He tocuhed upon the fallacy of the American Dream - everyone can get rich....by outlining the reality that only 1% of the population can ever be in the 1%.

The latter point links to Dorling's book "INEQUALITY AND THE 1%"

"Since the great recession hit in 2008, the 1% has only grown richer while the rest find life increasingly tough. The gap between the haves and the have-nots has turned into a chasm. While the rich have found new ways of protecting their wealth, everyone else has suffered the penalties of austerity.
But inequality is more than just economics. Being born outside the 1% has a dramatic impact on a person's potential: reducing life expectancy, limiting education and work prospects, and even affecting mental health."

Dorling’s book is essential and foundational reading for anyone who wishes to think about (or indeed change) the present organisation of wealth and power in the UK.

For a brief insight check out the following talks below:

Video 1 - RSA video on inequality and the 1%

Video 2 - RSA why social inequality persists

Website link to Danny Dorling's homepage

Monday, 3 June 2013

The problem of ‘Outstanding’ Geography

What I’ve learnt is that the word outstanding, often associated to OFSTED, is a misnomer; and unobtainable expectation which constantly demands perfection, often to the detriment of the individual teacher (and his/her family)! The paradox is that to be ‘the best’ requires constant reflection and an acceptance that there is no such thing as a perfect lesson...there is something always to be done, refined or improved. Teaching is not the profession for perfectionists, especially those who strive to be outstanding.

I want to put forward the idea that to be outstanding is not something to strive for.  OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ is not an accolade, as ‘outstanding’ often results in a one-off lesson which create a false sense of learning and cannot sustainably be delivered day in day out.  As the government does away with ASTs, in my opinion it should also do away with the term 'Outstanding', and instead encourage teachers to be great by simplifying the criteria for judging lessons.  

I wrote a post a number of months ago which was laden with outstanding lexicon: hinge questions, objectives, outcomes, progress checkers – all the bells and whistles of the ‘learning fetish’, which purports that students are learners; skills over knowledge; themes over subjects...blah blah blah!  However, since attending the GA conference, the Berkhamsted Teaching and Learning Conference and my first TeachMeet, I would like to get back to basics to what I think are the fundamental building blocks of what makes a great lesson (and teacher).

Simply put a great Geography lesson/teacher will: MAKE TEACHING THE FOCUS by...

i)                    Considering the pace of learning, so that it gives time for discussion/extended writing.

ii)                  Considering the type of task set, so that it is challenging & geographical.

iii)                Being flexible

iv)                Being Personal (through feedback, relation to local place, sharing pupil best practice)

Therefore, great Geography teachers put ‘Geography to work’ (Digby, 2013) through great teaching, by focusing on place, space, changes over time and interconnectedness (Lambert, 2013). Of course, skills such as critical thinking, map work, source interpretation will be drip-fed into the teaching as appropriate (and as needed!). 
Furthermore, teachers no longer have to reinvent the wheel and be great all on their own.  Encouragingly, the teaching practice is finally starting to catch up with business by sharing best practice online through an creative commons approach – nings, googledocs, blogs, twitter, teachmeets – are all mediums through which teachers, new and experienced, can reflect and improve their pedagogical practice in order to be great. PLNs (Personalised Learning Networks) or self-organised communities of practice (Rogers) are becoming crucial in helping teachers adjust to new specifications and share ideas about teaching content and exam technique.  It is unsurprising that Geography teachers are arguably the most connected or have the most extensive PLNs due to the inter-disciplinary nature of our subject – if you’re not connected have a look online for a ning for your subject specification and start sharing.

So, as the summer officially starts I wonder how practical and true the above will be when I start to teach 35minute lessons in September!