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!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Geographical Conference 2013 Lecture Snipets: Chironomids & Hazards in Kathmandu


Lecture 1: The past is the key to the future for understanding climate change: the importance of chironomids as temperature indicators

In recent years, the use of midges as quantitative indicators of past temperatures has greatly expanded.

Below is a brief summary of Dr Barbara Lang's Lecture on  'Changes in temperature and Society over the last 15,000years' (Edge Hill University):

Favourite line: Need to explore and understand the past in order to see how the system works.

-          Always been natural climate vulnerability; important to look at past to see how system works

-          Chironomids: non-biting midges found in most environments as pioneer species used as evidence

-          Paleo records also used like Pollen and hunan bone/hunting records.

Q: What lessons can we learn from the past for now?

Q: How is climate change going to affect the human population differently (winners & losers)

http://www.ecrc.ucl.ac.uk/?q=courses/chironomids-water-quality-and-climate-change

Lecture 2: Future trends in natural hazard loss


Below is a brief summary of Professor David Petley's Lecture on  'Future Trends in Natural Hazrad Loss' (Durham University)


Favourite line: Geography is the key discipline which integrates the physical and human world.

-          The next big plus 8.0 earthquake - 1million fatality or $1 trillion dollar loss.

-          Regarding unpredictable earthquakes, the future will be the same as past, just more expensive!

-          Increasing vulnerable population with a false sense of security (low hazard perception).

-          There has been a clustering of earthquakes overt time (1950s/60s cluster; now 2005 since Sumatra).

-          Next big one, Kathmandu
Q: Research why Kathmandu is so vulnerable?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Wealth Inequality in America



It appears that achieving equal wealth distribution, even in the world's only hegemonic superpower, is still an elusive reality. With emerging superpowers like China, Brazil and India also showing similar patterns of inequality resulting from a shift to market capitalism, the difficult question is finding out how to close the development gap, which exists not only between high income and low income countries, but within high income countries as well.

Plus, it's a cool infographic - politics aside...