OFSTED's Geography Research Review

A week ago, we saw the launch of the long awaited OFSTED research report for Geography.

Some headline bullet points from OFSTED themselves first:

  • Teachers break down curriculum content into component parts and draw from the breadth of concepts to give pupils the knowledge they need to appreciate the wider subject. When choosing curriculum content, teachers consider pupils’ prior knowledge and experiences.
  • Teachers recognise that building pupils’ knowledge of locations, or ‘where’s where’, helps them build their own identity and sense of place. Pupils develop an appreciation of distance and scale.
  • Pupils gain the knowledge they need to develop an increasingly complex understanding of place. This helps them make a connection between location and geographical processes and personal experience. For example, looking at their own route to school, town or city may lead to more conceptual understanding that they can draw on when looking at regional, national and global scales.
  • Fieldwork includes data collection, analysis and presentation. The experience of fieldwork draws together pupils’ locational knowledge and that of human and physical processes. It should be practised regularly.
  • Pupils see that geography is a dynamic subject where thinking and viewpoints change. Teachers correct pupils’ misconceptions through secure subject knowledge and effective teaching approaches.
  • Enquiry-based learning in geography can support the development of pupils’ disciplinary knowledge. Through careful content selection and teacher guidance, it can increase pupils’ capacity to recognise and ask geographical questions, to critique sources and reflect on what they have learned, as well as the methods used.
  • When using contemporary media coverage to engage and motivate pupils, teachers ensure that the geographical knowledge to be learned is always at the forefront of their teaching. Teachers check that any media content is geographically accurate.
  • Sufficient teaching time is allocated to cover the breadth of subject knowledge, and school leaders give careful thought to how geography is timetabled.

Daniel Whittall asked in a tweet about the relative lack of Post-16 and HE references in the report.

Iain PalΓ΄t has pointed out that around a quarter of the references are from GA publications and journals, and a range of the others are written by people who are involved with the GA in some way, including a fair few GA Presidents going back as far as Halford MacKinder and Norman Graves.

Several colleagues wondered whether teachers who are trying to cover the specifications and prepare students for exams really had time to consider the nature of the discipline at all, and just needed to get on with teaching geography.

What's interesting is how many of the mentions in the footnotes are to the work of former GA Presidents as well.

The GA published its own response to the piece very quickly.

Alan Kinder, the Chief Executive of the Geographical Association's statement made a few important points with reference to the contents of the report.

He pointed out the inclusion of a wide range of research from the geography education community, and the important contribution of geography to the education of every child. He talks about the GA's view of teachers as professionals in possession of signficant agency and that the preservation of choice is important.

The GA stands ready to support teachers during the next phase of their career, whatever stage of their career they are at.

The editors of 'Routes' journal posted their response, which focusses as do others on the omissions in the report, and in particular aspects of decolonising the curriculum and representation of some diverse geographical opinions and viewpoints.

Someone else who had an opinion and shared it is John Morgan. 

See his posting on the 'Impolite Geography' blog, which is entitled 'One Review to rule them all'.

He refers back to previous reports from the inspectorate and provides an interesting critique of the reviw process and the way that it has been put together.

"Clearly designed to be authoritative and claiming to effectively survey the landscape, the review seeks to convince its readers (geography teachers and school leaders) that its representation of the state of the subject in schools is believable and reasonable. It seeks to establish aspects of ‘best practice’ – what Ofsted is looking for – and convince us that this is based on reliable ‘evidence’."

He also focusses on the omissions of the report.

Thanks finally go to Mark Hayes for his useful visual summary of the report, which can also be downloaded as a PDF: