Improving Geographical Thinking in the Classroom with the Curriculum Making Model, pp. 2 of 8

In order to determine what geography students are learning in the classroom, one has to uncover and critically review the role played by geography educators themselves in imparting the curriculum in the classroom. Young (2010) argues that teachers are not curriculum designers, but “curriculum designers rely on teachers to motivate students and give those concepts a reality for pupils” (p.24). If teachers view themselves as delivery agents of the national curriculum, the geography learnt in classrooms will be passive and mechanical. Conversely, Lambert and Morgan (2010) have asserted that teachers need to see themselves as curriculum makers and not just delivery agents of the national curriculum (p.37). As Fien & Gerber (1988) have posited, in “teaching geography for a better world… [educators have to] rethink [their] goals, content, resources and methods in geography teaching” (as cited in Morgan, 2002, p. 15). To engage students and to induct them into ‘thinking geographically’ (Lambert, 2009; Rawding, 2013; Roberts, 2014), teachers themselves have to start to think geographically first (Jackson, 2006) and be intellectually connected with the subject. They also have to be equipped to use varied pedagogies and resources in their classrooms. Hence, to encourage geographical thinking in both teachers and students, a curriculum making model was introduced by the Geographical Association (GA) in UK. The next section will discuss the curriculum making model.

Literature review

What is curriculum making? How is it different from the curriculum implemented in schools? Curriculum for a subject is developed in consideration with the social, political and economic contexts of a country (Young, 2010). Developed by authorities in government and education ministries, a curriculum is a structural framework of a subject, a top down approach which prescribes what concepts and themes schools should teach their students at different levels, how they should teach it in their classrooms and the type of assessments students’ learning will be evaluated against (Mitchell, 2013).

Curriculum making on the other hand, is not curriculum planning nor a lesson plan as Lambert and Morgan (2010, 49) have clearly defined. Curriculum making could be a sequence of lessons planned by a teacher to teach about a topic or concept.  As John F. Bobbitt (1918) suggested, the lessons could extend content knowledge beyond the scope of the syllabus, desired educational outcomes and beyond students’ experiences in the topic (as cited in Catling, 2013). It could be a teacher’s creative way of “interpreting a curriculum specification or scheme of work and turning it into a coherent, challenging and engaging and enjoyable scheme of work” (GA, 2012, as cited in Catling, 2013, p. 432). The sequence of lessons could also incorporate moral reasoning, social justice, thinking and rethinking about issues and concepts students have already learnt in the curriculum. Figure 1 illustrates the essential components of curriculum making in a diagram. The three essential components are the subject content, student experiences and teacher choices.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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