Aspects of Teaching Secondary Geography - perspectives on practice

Editor(s) Maggie Smith
Publisher Open University/RoutledgeFalmer
Published 2002
ISBN 0415260868
Reviewed by Simon Hoult
Canterbury Christ Church University College
Review published 1 December 2004

This book, which reflects a wide range of perspectives and discusses the complex issues that surround teaching and learning of Geography will appeal to a wide audience but in particular to beginning teachers or those returning to the secondary classroom. This perspective on practice book is published alongside a reader (Teaching Geography in Secondary Schools-a Reader) and provides classroom illustrations of issues that face all Geography teachers.

The text, edited by Maggie Smith draws together chapters from a wide source of writers and is suitably ordered into four sections: Geography in the school curriculum, Geography in and out of the classroom, Geography for the twenty-first century and research and professional development. Most sections draw together pieces mainly previously published by the Geographical Association in either their Geography Teachers’ Handbook (Bailey and Fox 1996) and various journal articles from Teaching Geography. Whilst this is not necessarily a problem and publication of these papers to a wider audience is welcomed it does detract from the uniqueness of this text.

Section one of the text sets out the formal curriculum and whilst viewpoints are made it tends to provide National Curriculum information (and examination specifications) rather than enquire into the values and purpose of the curriculum. It does, however, provide a solid base for beginning teachers to understand the school curriculum. The history of curriculum development is described and although this is crucial to understanding the current debate it might have been more interesting to consider the ways that the current curriculum enables Geography to be delivered in the classroom as well, leading effectively to section two of the book.

Geography in and out of the classroom is considered in the second section of the text. This, rightly so, is the longest section of the text and considers a wide range of issues from enquiry approaches, thinking skills, map work, fieldwork, inclusion issues, resources and ICT to assessment practice. The editor notes the difficulty in editing such an important section, however, despite most chapters not being more than ten pages in length they summarise the key points effectively.

Roberts draws on work (chapter seven) on talking, reading and writing and many good practical approaches are suggested, however, as this chapter was originally published prior the various literacy strategy developments it would have been beneficial to the reader for a supplement to consider these developments. The theoretical background to the various and very popular thinking through Geography strategies are outlined effectively in chapter eight (Leat) and a refreshing review of fieldwork is given by David Job (chapter ten) who also considers the qualitative approaches to fieldwork that have at times been lost in the rush to quantify almost everything.

The second section also focuses fairly heavily on assessment issues. This introduces the reader to elements of formative assessment and thought provoking sections on assessing thinking (Leat and McGrane) and on marking and homework (Lambert and Balderstone).

Durbin evaluates the key role of televisual resources in Geography well covering this important tool in teaching and learning. Common to many texts recently published, the audio element of audiovisual is less well explored and there could have been some scope for including learning of Geography through music for example in the text.

ICT is a crucial tool for Geography teachers to engage learners and enhance their Geography. This section introduces the issues well but the reader will need to enquire more deeply elsewhere in order to aid their practice.

The section introduces the key concepts in teaching and learning of Geography well and a balanced approach by a beginning teacher using the theories and strategies suggested should produce some excellent practice. A further section that encourages innovation and creativity amongst teachers and learners would have been a fitting way to end this section.

More recent developments in the teaching and learning of Geography are outlined in the third section of the text. An excellent review of geography and race (Morgan) including analysis of text books for racial imbalances will make the reader think deeply about their approaches to teaching and learning and the careful choice and use of resources. This section also raises the important issues around Geography and Citizenship (Turner) drawing the elements of the two subjects together clearly and strong arguments are made regarding the need for teaching development issues (Binns). A useful evaluative tool is outlined in chapter 20 (Thomson) which will enable teachers to reflect on their own situation and hopefully gauge opinion of their own pupils regarding Geography.

The final chapter is an excellent idea drawing together the roles of research Geography. Whilst this section overviews the research situation and outlines some interesting research a beginning teacher may also wish to find information and guidance on successful research techniques and strategies which this section does not cover.

Overall this text is very useful for the beginning teacher-over viewing many of the current issues in the teaching and learning of Geography. In conjunction with its Reader it provides a balanced approach to practice and theory, exemplifying points through classroom approaches and examples. If a second edition is published a suggestion would be to update the sections, especially surrounding the ideas of the key stage 3 strategy and ICT approaches and also around notions of pupil and teacher creativity.