Monday, May 23, 2011

Are we there yet?

Left image: Korean food delight.
Right image: Wind farm in South Korea.

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project
Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
Email contact

Where am I??
Sydney: S: 34º 0' E: 151º 0'

Progress with the Australian Curriculum: geography

In a posting some time ago (September 2009) I gave a quick rundown about how the Australian Curriculum: geography was progressing. Much has transpired over the past 21 months. In this posting I will attempt to give a rundown of progress, where we are and what is to come before we have a curriculum for geography to play with in Australian schools.

Some background
The linked Powerpoint titled "Are we there yet?"
was presented at the recent (May 27th) GTASA conference in Adelaide. It contains a past, present and future focus regarding the AC: geography. As you will see from slide 39 we are in a targetted consultation stage of the process.
"During the first part of the writing stage from February-June 2011,
ACARA will be conducting targeted consultation processes with state
jurisdictions and geography teachers associations (coordinated by
AGTA). These bodies will be asked to respond to the work undertaken by
the writers re: scope and sequence in particular."

Where we have come from?

Following the outstanding work of the Toward a National Geography Curriculum project during 2008 and 2009, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) commenced work on developing the geography curriculum for Australian schools. From October 2009-March 2010 an ACARA Reference Group comprising leading university and school geographers developed an initial advice paper to guide the development of the geography curriculum. Following a period of on-line consultation and a national forum of key geography stakeholders in 2010 another group of geographers were invited in May 2010 to work on a shape paper to be the basis of curriculum development for the scope and sequence. The Advisory group released the ACARA Shape Paper for geography in January 2010. Since February 2011 the ACARA Geography Advisory Panel and a group of appointed curriculum writers have been working on developing the rationale, aims and scope and sequence for the geography curriculum. Whilst this process may seem convoluted it is necessary to provide those involved with the time to work through some important questions relating to the teaching of geography in Australian schools. Only through such a thorough process can we be confident that all angles have been covered and the curriculum has had to time to grow and mature through discussions between those who should know what a 21st Century geography curriculum should look like.

To demonstrate the need for such a process, the following areas have been ones of contention (often referred to as hotspots) between those involved in developing the curriculum (some of which are still being debated after 18 months of intense work by advisory groups):

• What is Geography?
• The nature of place and space.
• What does Geography in schools look like?
• Defining the term environment.
• The balance between physical and human geography.
• The content v’s process debate.
• How important is the spatial concept in comparison to the concept of place?
• What are the core concepts?
• The nature of sustainability in geography.
• The degree of focus on sustainability in geography.
• The importance of the spatial perspective.
• Spatial technology and it’s use as a core issue.
• The mandating of fieldwork.
• The uniqueness of the inquiry process in geography.
• How should the curriculum be structured/formatted.

Where are we?

The ACARA Geography Advisory panel is presently working on developing the rationale, aims, key concepts and scope and sequence for the geography curriculum. The panel of 16 geographers and curriculum officers from around Australia has met face to face three times in Sydney to discuss many of the hotspots mentioned above and to respond to the work of the 6 appointed curriculum writers (not named). It is envisaged this curriculum writing phase will be for about 20 months (February 2011-August 2012). These face-to face meetings have been supported by numerous teleconferences and a flurry of email and sharepoint discussions on the proposed aims, rationale, concepts and scope and sequence. The work of the panel has been primarily concerned with:

• making sure the rationale provides a coherent and relevant definition of school geography and the reasons why geography is important to the 21st Century citizen.
• writing a concise listing of aims for geography which are understandable, achievable, relevant and engaging for young people
• identification of key concepts (5-7 in number) from the expansive list in the shape paper.
• defining these key concepts and identifying the relationships between concepts
• developing a view on the progression of concepts F-12
• deciding on the structure of the scope and sequence
• developing a scope and sequence and the related progression of skills and understandings from F-12.

I assure you, no easy task. Despite the excellent communication between geographers across Australia, there are some differences in opinion and views which must be worked through to develop a coherent and not compromised final product. I am sure, with the help of geographers from around Australia via forums and on-line consultation, we will reach such an end in coming months. We all want the same thing – a relevant and inspiring geography curriculum so as to ensure students want to study geography beyond the years of compulsion.

Where to next?

Note the following sequence of events is the one proposed by ACARA as of May 2011. Naturally, depending on circumstances, it could change as time goes by.

* During the first part of the writing stage from February-June 2011, ACARA will be conducting targeted consultation processes with state jurisdictions and geography teachers associations (coordinated by AGTA). These bodies will be asked to respond to the work undertaken by the writers re: scope and sequence in particular.
* Following this targeted consultation, in August 2011 a National Forum of key stakeholders is tentatively planned to be held in Sydney to view and discuss the work to date. This should involve the viewing of the draft rationale, aims and a scope and sequence.
* It is hoped that a draft scope and sequence containing content descriptions (including elaborations) and achievement standards will be released in September 2011 for national consultation. This on-line consultation is tentatively planned to be held between September-December 2011. This consultation period will be followed by another phase of curriculum writing guided by the advice provided from the consultation.
* A second National Forum is tentatively planned for February 2012 to discuss the revisions post-on-line consultations in 2011.
* Another national on-line consultation is tentatively planned to be held between May-June 2012, followed by revisions by the writers.
* At this stage ACARA is saying that the Australian Curriculum: Geography will be published on-line during September 2012.

So in answer to the question of this blog posting; are we there yet? No! We have a long way to go and the involvement of geography teachers across Australia is critical if we are to get the product geography students (and teachers) in Australia deserve. It should be an interesting journey.

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