Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Grammar and vocabulary of geography

Image above:The Kids World Citizen site posting on fundamental geographical knowledge all students (and teachers) should have.

Related links to Spatialworlds
GeogSplace (a teaching blog for Year 12 geography)
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Where am I??

Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

Knowledge required for understanding

 "If we were to imagine learning to think geographically to be a bit like learning a language, then we need both geographical vocabulary and grammar in order to do this. The subject's 'core knowledge' can be thought of as geography's vocabulary – the extensive, factual basis of the 'world subject'. If core knowledge is geography's vocabulary, geography's conceptual framework forms its grammar."                                                                         David Lambert

This posting is dedicated to the thinking of David Lambert, former Geography Association of the UK CEO and presently the Professor of Geography Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. In his numerous articles David has referred to the grammar and vocabulary of geography. I have found this way of thinking extremely useful when working with teachers not fully acquitted with the nuances of geographical education. David's approach to professional learning through this analogy is quite fascinating and very helpful in structural learning approaches with teachers. In a nutshell, the analogy is that the conceptual thinking of geography can be viewed as the grammar of geography and the exhaustive knowledge, language and skills of geography as the vocabulary.  Without the so called vocabulary, as teachers we are restricted in developing deep geographical understandings through the thinking in geography, the grammar. 

Some associated thinking on the need to teach the vocabulary of geography relates to the area of citizenship education. Some argue, and I agree, such basic geographical knowledge, understandings and skills are imperative for young adults to know, so that they can navigate society as a citizen. In a previous Spatialworlds blog I explored this idea in a posting called Spatial citizenship.  

A slide from my Geographical Knowledge workshop

I consider such a view as extremely pertinent to where we are at with the professional learning of teachers in geography in Australia.  Teachers are engaging with the structure and content of the curriculum, but without sound geographical knowledge and skills they are limited in developing the deep geographical understandings and thinking which is implicit in the Australian Curriculum: Geography Achievement Standards. In fact, I think the application of the Achievement Standards is virtually impossible without the grammar and vocabulary as enunciated by David.

So what is the 
vocabulary of geography? In recent months I have started conducting geographical knowledge workshops with teachers as a follow-up to the geographical grammar (thinking) workshops I have been conducting since 2012. Interestingly I came across a blog posting from the other side of the world today which eerily reflected almost exactly the workshops I have been conducting. Such a coincidence was affirming that there is some core knowledge that geography educators can relate to as foundation and essential knowledge as the vocabulary building stones.

Here is a slide showing a broad outline of what I cover in the geographical 
vocabulary workshop  

Now have a look at the blog posting on the area of essential geographical knowledge (vocabulary) from the Kid World Citizen site - interestingly similar!
Having said all of that, the challenge for geography educators involved in conducting professional learning for teachers is to present such material 
in an interesting and accessible manner, in a short timespan and not to come across to adult learners as treating them like Geographical ignoramus’s’!

Download the attached flyer from Dropbox if you or any of your colleagues are interested in attending any of the Geographical Grammar and Knowledge workshops in South Australia during the remainder of this year or in 2015. 

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