This report is a presentation of the findings of a survey distributed to geography teachers in late 2017 – early 2018, to establish a baseline of views about beliefs and practices in curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and professional development and learning.
Key findings in the report are that:
- Geography was framed by teachers as predominantly a subject which supports the practical interests of knowledge, through its holistic, real world applicability. That is, geography teachers report mostly focusing on the interaction of natural and cultural processes, and how geography helps students develop decisions about the environment. There was very little framing of geography as a subject that serves emancipatory knowledge interests.
- Geography teachers recognised that there are many external levers that impact on their curriculum planning in addition to knowledge. There were, however, quite wide differences in opinion over the level of curriculum influences and practices, including: student voice, departmental tradition, approaches to concept-led learning, whether geography should be process or issue-led, and how GIS skills were integrated into plans.
- Overall, there was a wide variety of case study knowledge developed, although in some themes such as Year 13 interacting natural processes and cultural processes there was a narrow range of foci (predominantly coastal processes and tourism development). Fieldtrip opportunities to support these case studies were popular and highly regarded components of geographical learning.
- Geography teachers attributed their teaching experience and knowledge of subject matter as the main reasons for their strong confidence in geography teaching. Materials such as departmental unit plans to translate NZC achievement objectives or the online Teaching and Learning Curriculum Guides were far less well regarded as supporting their confidence.
- Geography teachers’ descriptions of ideal lessons focused on geographical content, generic pedagogy and student needs to vastly different degrees. Two-thirds of the sample identified some form of geographical knowledge as being part of an ideal lesson. Of these, 13 teachers balanced geographical knowledge with pedagogical strategy and student needs in their vision of an ideal lesson.
- Learning tasks that geography teachers asked their students to do ‘very often’ or ‘often’ were ‘comparing and contrasting viewpoints and values ‘(83%), ‘explaining their ideas’ (78%), ‘representing and analysing relationships using graphs, tables and/or maps’ (70%), and ‘posing questions about places or phenomena’ (67%). Learning tasks which featured less often were critiquing internet (27% ‘very often’ or ‘often’) or textbook
information (9%), using ICT to map spatial patterns or solve problems (24%) and engaging with the history of geographical thought (10%).
- Geography teachers reported being confident in their use of diagnostic, formative and summative assessment practices and to assess progress in factual, contextual, conceptual and procedural knowledge. From a list of six uses of student assessment, geography teachers ranked ‘providing students with feedback’ (72% ranked item highly) and ‘providing student grades and marks’ (57%) as the two most common uses. The two least common uses of student assessment were ‘to reflect on your own teaching’ (29%) and ‘to plan for future lessons’ (22%).
- Student self-assessment and peer-assessment approaches were less commonly used by geography teachers than traditional forms of collecting, marking and giving whole class feedback. This extended to homework assessment practices as well.
- Geography teachers are very concerned about the constraints being placed on EOTC opportunities; the continued challenges of NCEA assessment, including its negative impact on geography curriculum design and the quality of student learning; and declining student numbers, which was commonly externalised as being the result of competition with STEM subjects.
- Over the last two years, geography teachers typically had one or two days of geography teaching specific PLD. There is a strong desire for more subject specific PLD opportunities than are currently available. The most common form of formal subject specific professional development was ‘course and workshops’ and ‘local/national subject association events’. Inquiry projects with a geography focus or mentoring/coaching PLD were less commonly participated in, although a larger proportion of teachers rated these types of PLD as having significant impact. Dialogue with colleagues, collaborative review of student work, and reading geography education literature were common forms of informal PLD.
- Geography teachers report a high level of need for Geographic Information Systems [GIS] PLD, as well as incorporating more of Te Ao Māori into curriculum plans, developing new case study ideas and using geographical inquiry methods in their teaching.