Geography - Australian Curriculum
Yesterday I attended the NSW Geography Teachers Association Annual Professional Development Day. The big focus of the day was on Australian Curriculum. We were lucky enough to have two speakers from ACARA Susan Caldis and Tracey McAskill. Susan has been a bit of a one-woman show over the past couple of years doing all the Geography teachers events and keeping everyone up to date. This blog post is a summary of the information from ACARA.
As we know, all states in Australia but NSW are using the curriculum documents as written by ACARA and have begun implementation already. ACARA is calling the next 18 months "implementation mode" for the rest of Australia in relation to geography.
Reviewing the curriculum
ACARA undertook a detailed consultation process in the development of the Geography curriculum. From within NSW, the BOS collected submissions, organisations within the DEC held video conferences, detailed submissions were written by DEC officers, HSIE and Social Science faculties and teachers made submissions, and online surveys were completed. Expert groups were gathered in each of the states and territories. Existing syllabus documents were examined and compared from around Australia. Similarities and differences were mapped. International geography experts have had a role in critiquing the curriculum including Professor Catling, Professor David Lambert and Dr Rita Gardner. After a series of reviews, the new Geography curriculum for Foundation (Kindergarten) to Year 10 has now been finalised. The Senior Geography curriculum has just been released but is not finalised.
It is anticipated that during the first phases of implementation an assessment and review of ACARA's curriculum will take place to determine successes and weaknesses and any further tweaks required.
Structure and rationale
In ACARA's Geography curriculum each year is organised under the following headings: a year level description, key inquiry questions, content descriptions and achievement standards. The Content for each year has 2 main strands: "enquiry and skills" and "knowledge and understanding". These strands help to organise the curriculum. In each 7-10 year group there are 2 units of work. In addition there are 7 key concepts that weave through the geography curriculum (place, space, environment, interconnection, sustainability, scale and change). View more detail about the seven concepts.
View the Australian Curriculum for Geography.
One of the big issues for discussion amongst teachers has been the balance between physical and human geography in the new curriculum. Many have stated that there is an over-emphasis on human geography. While the understanding of physical geography is implied, it does not appear to be explicitly taught in the secondary years (at least not much). The new curriculum does not have a division of human and physical geography topics. Rather the human and physical geography are intertwined throughout the topics. Units of work can be done in any order within a Year and content can be chunked or rearranged to enable teachers to ensure the best understanding of the topic. The elaborations in the curriculum are not mandatory, but rather just ideas about how to cover content. It may be the case that you cover more physical geography for the students to gain a more thorough understanding of the knowledge and understanding components.
The scale of case studies in the new curriculum ranges from personal to regional, national and global. Despite the Cross-curriculum priorities of Asia and Australia's Engagement with Asia it was emphasised that teachers need to balance the focus on Asia with coverage of the rest of the world. The development of students' knowledge of the world develops from K-10. The earlier years focus more on the local case studies, while in late primary school students begin to look at regional and global case studies as well, particularly in the southern hemisphere. Students continue to develop their global knowledge in year 7-10. Despite references in the curriculum to specific countries, teachers do not have to focus on these examples but can use their own.
View the development of geography from Foundation to 10.
View the Scope and Sequence.
The new curriculum tries to incorporate emerging trends and provides flexibility for fieldwork opportunities within each topic. It has a futures focus, and encourages students to consider their involvement in the world. How can I contribute? What are my responsibilities? What is my place in the world? How can I make the world a better place? There are many opportunities for enquiry-based learning and Problem Based Learning.
ACARA does not specify the hours of teaching for each subject, but rather this decision is made by the states and territories.
Work sample portfolios
Portfolios of student work have been made available on the Australian Curriculum website. They can be found at the beneath the Achievement Standards on the Australian Curriculum website. The samples can be used a toll for moderation to help teachers decide to what extent student have met the achievement standards. For those teachers undergoing the accreditation process they also serve as a model of how to annotate work.
Some time in the near future I will write about how all this will impact on NSW, but in short, there's certainly no rush for me to get something out there about it. It's a long way off for us. More to come later...
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Deputy Principal at a Sydney high school. Coordinating author of the Geoactive text book series.