Professional Development for your staff - Implementing the NSW Geography syllabus 7-10
tI have recently been running a few sessions with high schools to help with programming for the new NSW Geography syllabus incorporating the Australian Curriculum. As the year is coming to a close, and I am running out of time, I thought I would just make this available in case people want to share it or go through it with their faculties. This might be a useful resource to use for one of the last Staff Development Days or your first day back (take note Social Science/HSIE Head Teachers).
If you are at a Department of Education school you can find this course on MyPL by searching for its title: Introduction to the 7-10 Geography syllabus: - Session 1 - the basic framework.
Download the file to use with your staff (edit/change whatever you like).
Why teach Geography?
Given the number of teachers who teach Geography in 7-10, that aren't specifically trained in it (or perhaps interested in it), I think it is worth starting any discussion with "Why teach Geography?". Ask teachers to consider the importance of examining and promoting this subject to the individual, the community and the world. If you can encourage the staff that aren't all that engaged in Geography to develop an interest in it, then they will be much more successful in teaching the subject and engaging their students.
Geography in Primary - impacts on your teaching in high school
For the first time, students will be studying Geography in primary school as a stand alone subject. Most Year 7 units that are currently taught begin with "What is Geography", "What is a Geography tool/skill?", "What are the features of maps", etc. Once the new syllabus is fully implemented, students will have already covered this introductory information in primary school. So this is the first thing that will need to go. In primary school the students will have already been introduced to geographical concepts, tools, and the geographical inquiry process. Keep in mind, this may not be the case for 2017 for all students, but from 2018, you should expect that students have this prior knowledge. Obviously, do some pretesting to get an idea of the depth of students' knowledge.
Components of the syllabus
Continuums of learning
This syllabus introduces a series of continuums of learning for students. There are three continuums: Geographical concepts, Inquiry skills and Geographical tools. These provide you with a snapshot of the learning the takes place in each stage from Early Stage 1 to Stage 5.
In the previous syllabus students followed a Research Action Plan. This has been simplified in the new syllabus to a Geographical Inquiry. Students undertake a Geographical Inquiry from Early Stage 1 up to Stage 5, but as students move through the stages the process becomes more complex. However, regardless of the complexity, there are three main stages to a Geographical Inquiry - Acquiring geographical information, processing geographical information and communicating geographical information.
Geographical Tools include five main categories - Maps, Fieldwork, Graphs and Statistics, Spatial Technologies and Visual Representations. In the previous syllabus, these were generally what we referred to as skills. There has been some shifting of skills/tools from the previous syllabus and the addition of some new tools. The biggest difference is in Stage 5, where in Spatial Technologies students will be expected to be proficient in virtual maps, satellite maps, global positioning systems (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing data and augmented reality. If this is something which staff find a little daunting, keep in mind that you could delay implementing a couple of these items until 2018, Year 10 to allow a little bit of extra time for upskilling. This way you would still be covering them for the students in Stage 5. Once teaching feeling comfortable with their own skills levels and knowledge, you might then look at shifting it earlier in the stage.
One of a major differences bewteen the new NSW syllabus and the Australian Curriculum is the integration of outcomes, which in NSW we are used to. Outcomes decribe the essential learning. You MUST cover outcomes. These must be the starting points for designing your lessons, excursions, project based learning, problem based learning, assessments and reports. There should really be a huge arrow pointing at the outcomes for each topic saying "Start here!!".
Key Inquiry Questions
The new NSW syllabus has included key inquiry questions which drive student learning. This inquiry strand runs parallel to the development of content knowledge. Students will use their inquiry skills (see the continuum discussed above) and geographical tools to undertake geographical inquiries. This is an opportunity for students to explore problematic knowledge, and to develop critical and creative thinking, ethical understanding, personal and social capability (some of the Learning Across the Curriculum areas),
The stage statements provide a description of what we want student to have acheived by the end of the stage. Stage statements can be used as a reference point for student acheivement. They may also be useful in making judgements about individual students in terms of decisions related to Learing and Support, Life Skills or opportunities for acceleration. If the student is performing well above or below the stage statement this will indicate that adjustments, modifications or a different course is required.
The content is the detailed information to be covered in each topic. Each of the dot points is compulsory, while the dash points are suggested ways that you may choose to approach the dot point (not mandatory). You may come up with other ways to approach the dot point if you choose.
A specific Geography Life Skills course has been provided which could run parallel to a mainstream class. Topics, outcomes and content are similar. This will make it easier to implement if you have one Life Skills students in a mainstream class, as you will be able to use some of the basic information prepared for your mainstream class and heavily modify it, rather than create resources on a completely different topic as was the case with the provious Life Skills course.
Icons and symbols
The content has a series of codes and symbols throughout. The Australian Curriculum Codes are indicated after the dot points (e.g. ACHGK048). Generally teachers don't really need to worry about these, as the NSW syllabus is the absolute authority. However, if you are looking for resources shared from around Australia, it may be useful to know the Australian Curriculum code. Icons and abbreviations are also used to indicate appropriate content where tools and Learning Across the Curriculum can be covered.
Deputy Principal at a Sydney high school. Coordinating author of the Geoactive text book series.