Teaching Geography in Secondary Schools: A Reader

By Maggie Smith | Go to book overview

7

Teaching styles and strategies

David Balderstone

Although there has been increasing standardisation in recent years of the aims and content of geographical education in England and Wales, teaching geography remains a very personal activity. Geography teachers can still exercise autonomy in their selection of teaching strategies and learning activities. Thus, it is easier to determine what geography teachers teach than to influence how they deliver this content (Roberts 1996:237).

However, as Slater (1987:55) asserts, the selection of teaching strategies is 'as important as selecting content'. Successful teaching involves knowing what to do to bring about the desired learning and being able to do it. One of our main professional concerns as geography teachers should be to learn how to set up learning activities and use different teaching strategies to bring about the aspects of learning in geography that we intend for our pupils. Thus geography teachers are also 'learners', developing their knowledge and understanding of processes of teaching and learning in the subject (Lambert and Balderstone 2000:233).

We could be forgiven for thinking that teaching is now anything but a personal activity. In the late 1990s, the debate has shifted away from the content of the curriculum towards a focus on methods of teaching. The introduction of programmes for developing literacy and numeracy in the primary years based on the use of specific teaching strategies provides the clearest indication of this policy trend. However impor tant this context, it is not the purpose of this chapter to analyse the influence of educa tional policy upon classroom practice in Geography. This author shares Margaret Roberts' belief that geography teachers still have considerable freedom to decide 'how they are going to teach and how their pupils are going to learn' (1996:32).

We begin by considering some of the contexts shaping current discussions about teaching strategies, before outlining some of the frameworks that have been used to describe teaching strategies. Finally, some thoughts about the ways in which geography teachers might develop their pedagogic knowledge are explored in order to raise important professional development issues.


Contexts and concerns

What teachers do to ensure that pupils learn, the 'craft' of teaching, is often referred to as pedagogy. In defining pedagogy as 'any conscious activity by one

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