Friday, October 21, 2011

A spatial-centric view of the Australian Curriculum: Geography

Left image:.Sydney CBD.
Right image: On the tarmac, Sydney.

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??
Hobart, Australia: S: 42º 50' E: 147º 20'

Draft Australian Curriculum: Geography goes up for consultation

Last night, the draft Australian Curriculum: Geography scope and sequence went live for public consultation on the ACARA Curriculum portal. After months of working on the aims, rationale, content, skills and achievement standards, we finally have a curriculum available for everyone in Australia to comment on – not just those targeted few in the form of the writers, advisors, geography associations and jurisdictions. Such selected input is the only way to go during the frantic stages of development, but now it is time to hear from everyone interested. The purpose of this Spatialworlds posting is to have a selected glance with an eye on the spatial. Such a spatial-centric look does not devalue all the other components of the curriculum but it is an attempt to identify the extent and quality of the reference to spatial thinking and the promotion of the use and application of spatial technology. What would one expect from this blog?

* Spatial orientated excerpts from the Rationale

“Geography is a structured way of exploring, analysing and explaining the characteristics of the places that make up our world, through perspectives based on the concepts of place, space and environment. Students of geography investigate the effects of location and distance on the characteristics of places, the consequences of the interconnections between places, the significance of spatial distributions, and the management of the space that is the surface of the earth.
Fieldwork, the mapping and interpretation of spatial distributions, and the use of spatial technologies are fundamental geographical skills. Through their inquiries students also develop a wide range of general skills and capabilities, including information and communication technology (ICT) skills, an appreciation of different perspectives, an understanding of ethical principles, a capacity for teamwork and an ability to think critically and creatively. These skills and capabilities can be applied in everyday life and to a variety of careers.”

* Spatial orientated aims of the curriculum

• the ability to think geographically, based on an understanding of the concepts of place, space, environment, interconnection, sustainability, scale and change
• the capacity to be competent, critical and creative users of geographical inquiry methods and skills

* Inquiry and skills in a spatial context

A glance through the F-10 skills sequences described in the document for each year level shows that there is adequate reference and emphasis to the use of spatial technology, application and analysis. I am sure these will be fine-tuned and made clearer and more overt as a result of the consultation processes over coming months.

For example in the structure of the curriculum section it is said that:

“There is an emphasis on the techniques that geographers use in the field and in the classroom. Students learn to think critically about the methods used to obtain information, analyse and interpret it, in order to communicate their findings.
Key skills which are progressively developed throughout the F-12 draft Australian Curriculum: Geography include (but are not limited to) formulating a question and research action plan that is of a specific geographical nature, developing observation recording skills including diagrams such as field sketches, interpreting and developing maps, tables, photographs, satellite images, diagrams, graphs and other data, using a variety of spatial technologies and communicating with appropriate and relevant geographical vocabulary.”

* The Inquiry model outlined in the document

The place and importance of spatial technologies, applications and analysis plays a central role throughout the inquiry model forwarded in the paper i.e.

Observing and questioning: Developing questions about something that has been observed, experienced or thought about.
Planning, collecting and evaluating: Deciding how to investigate a question or find an answer to a problem, and identifying possible answers to test; collecting information from a variety of primary sources and secondary sources, such as text-based resources, statistics, images, maps, aerial photographs, satellite images, samples and objects, fieldwork, sketches, interviews, and reports; and evaluating information for reliability and bias.
Processing, analysing, interpreting and concluding: Making sense of the information gathered through textual analysis and interpretation, by processing it into maps, tables, graphs and diagrams. Identifying order, diversity, trends, patterns, anomalies, generalisations and cause and effect relationships, using quantitative and qualitative methods appropriate to the type of inquiry; and interpreting the results of this analysis and developing conclusions.
Communicating: Communicating the results of investigations using combinations of communication methods (verbal, audio, graphical, visual, mapping and text-based), which are appropriate to the subject matter, purpose and audience.
Reflecting and responding: Reflecting on the findings of the investigation and relating these findings to existing knowledge; reflecting on the process of the inquiry, and on the strengths and weaknesses of the method of investigation chosen; deciding what action is needed in response to the results of the investigation, by applying the criteria of environmental sustainability, economic costs and benefits, and social justice; and reflecting on the actions.

* Space as a key concept in the curriculum

“The concept of space, in geography, is the three-dimensional surface of the earth. … geography studies difference across space and the rich diversity of environments, peoples, cultures and economies that exist together on the surface of the earth.”

Students develop a progressively deeper understanding of the role of space by:
o investigating the spatial distribution of geographical phenomena and explaining them, often by looking for a similarity between several distributions
o learning how to evaluate the environmental, economic, social and political consequences of particular spatial distributions
o studying the influence of absolute and relative location on the characteristics of places and on people’s lives
o investigating the ways that space is structured, organised and managed by people for different purposes

* Implications for teaching, assessment and reporting
“Students’ interest in geographical learning should be stimulated by a wide variety of activities, such as field trips, interpretation of remotely sensed images …”

* Content at a glance

Foundation: Where we live
Y1: Not everywhere is the same
Y2: Links to our world
Y3 and Y4: How we live
Y5: Climate and activities
Y6: Going global
Y7. Why do people live where they do
Environmental resources: Water plus
Y8: Personal and community geographies
Y9. Biomes and food security
Navigating global connections
Y10. Global well-being
Environmental challenges and geography

* The reference to spatial in the Content and Elaborations

The F-12 content identified above is obviously of great interest to teachers and as stated on-line; the content is to be explored by developing the ability of students “to see the relationships between geographical concepts (place, space, environment, interconnection, sustainability, scale and change.
Naturally many in the world of spatial thinking and spatial technology would have liked to see more in the curriculum which overtly refers to the use of spatial technology and applications. As Mick La w recently commented on this blog:

“It goes without saying that I think a much stronger emphasis should be placed on spatial technologies, particularly given the role they play in the workforce today.”

I think that the references to things spatial and associated technology in the curriculum, cited in this posting, gives plenty of license for the promotion of such in the teaching and learning programs which are to be developed for the Australian Curriculum: Geography.
An enlightened view on such matters is particularly evident in the Year 10 Unit titled: Environmental challenges and Geography when it is stated that students are to be taught that:

“Spatial technologies can be employed to visualise, map and analyse the distribution, causes and possible solutions to the environmental challenge”
and as an elaboration students may:
* investigating spatial technologies used by geographers working on environmental challenges
* analysing the causes of the challenge and to develop possible, probable and preferred futures
* recognising the value of spatial technologies as a geographical tool in geographical inquiry and in a wide range of practical applications
* investigating and discussing how professional geographers use geographical tools, thinking and skills in their work.

Let’s see what the consultation, which is open to February, says on this question. Hopefully we have plenty of comments on the need to have spatial technology, applications and analysis “up front and centre” in the curriculum and that modern geography needs to explore the spatial and use all the technology and applications used in the vocational and community world of geography – as I have referred to as Spatialworlds in this blog.

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