Teaching Geography in Secondary Schools: A Reader

By Maggie Smith | Go to book overview

5

Curriculum planning and course development

A matter of professional judgement

Margaret Roberts

There is a dilemma in describing a course of study it is only in a trivial sense that one gives a course to 'get something across', merely to impart information. There are better means to that end than teaching. Unless the learner also masters himself, disciplines his taste, deepens his view of the world, the 'something' that is got across is hardly worth the effort of transmission.

(Bruner 1966:73)


Introduction

Now that there is a Geography National Curriculum (GNC) for pupils aged 5 to 14 and detailed syllabuses for GCSE and A level, teachers might wonder whether their role in curriculum planning has been taken away from them. Clearly, the existence or nature of statutory requirements and examination syllabuses could be challenged. However, this chapter does not enter that debate but focuses on what teachers might do within the current educational context to plan the Geography curriculum in their schools and to develop their own geography courses.

The terms 'curriculum planning' and 'course development' encompass the thinking and documentation that occurs before, during and after teaching and learning takes place in the classroom. Teachers approach the task of planning in different ways, being influenced, consciously or subconsciously, by the models of planning they have encountered, by the GNC, by examination syllabuses, by textbooks, by colleagues and by experience. The way a curriculum is planned is a matter of debate and ultimately a matter of professional judgement. This chapter focuses on two models of curriculum development: an objectives model and a process model. It outlines the basic features and origins of each model, gives examples of their impact on geographical education and looks at the merits and criticisms of each approach. Finally, it highlights the dilemmas teachers face in adapting these models to their own use. Before looking at these models, however, it is worth distinguishing between a syllabus and a curriculum plan.

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