Volume 7, Issue 1 2018

HSSE Online EDITORIAL

This special geography issue of HSSE Online focuses on the research-practice nexus for teaching and learning geography. It celebrates the professional identities of geography teachers as reflective thinkers and education researchers who work towards excellence in their classroom practice through evidence-based interventions. This collection of articles highlights research conducted by both pre-service and in-service geography teachers that have important implications for teaching and learning. Although the research data focuses on geography classrooms and topics, the articles have wider application to a humanities audience as they deal with broader themes of supporting the co-construction of knowledge and critical thinking skills, and using data strategically in both the classroom and the field.

The first four papers stem from research conducted by pre-service teachers on geography education issues. Debi Lim analyses the role of talk in engaging students in critical thinking and learning. She highlights how the quality of dialogue and learning outcomes in the classroom are linked inextricably to power and authority in the classroom, and calls for more student-led dialogue in discussions. Lim En Qi examines the role of fieldwork in developing cognitive thinking in students using an adapted model of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Her research suggests both an improvement in higher-order cognitive skills, as well as deeper thinking within each level, stemming from participating in field-based inquiry. Esther Wong draws on the Mediated Learning Experience framework to analyse the geography curriculum and suggest improvements to support inquiry learning in practice. Given the difficulties geography teachers face in planning for fieldwork in unfamiliar sites, Heidi Tan’s paper illustrates the efficacy of using GIS techniques to determine the suitability of sites for sampling in fieldwork.

The remaining three articles are contributions by practicing teachers who have conducted action research focused on improving the quality of students’ writing. Zainab Hassan and David Toh address the role of formative written feedback as a constructive pedagogical strategy to help improve students’ geographical writing, and as a means for teachers to model a reflective attitude towards learning. A group of teachers from five secondary schools (Jamilah Sukimi, Samantha Lim, Sarifah Tamsir, Tan Say Pin & Wong Yi Jun) developed a writing framework that combines Paul’s Elements of Thinking with Neighbour’s Core Questions to guide students’ writing in level descriptor questions. The aim of the research is to provide both structure in extended writing, and encourage the use of geographical concepts in quality responses. Finally, Ong Ka Min Yuan and Arulushamaheswary D/O Anbalagan developed a framework to help students who struggle with writing answers to data response questions. Using Bloom’s taxonomy, the authors developed a step-by-step guide on how to analyse data in geography.

Tricia Seow
Editor, HSSE Online

A Dialogic Teaching Approach: Talk Moves to Deepen Students’ Understanding in the Geography Classroom

"In most Singapore classrooms, lessons are typically characterised by the traditional Initiation-Response-Feedback (IRF) instructional sequence. Such an approach limits students’ ability to engage in meaningful classroom discussions and is contrary to achieving 21st Century skills. This paper analyses the power of dialogic talk in the classroom to engage students in more critical thinking and learning. This paper examines how the quality of dialogue and learning outcomes in the classroom will be influenced when students are conferred more authority in the classroom and positioned as significant figures of knowledge construction. This topic of study is significant as the foundation of Singapore geography is underpinned by an inquiry approach, where knowledge construction is anchored upon asking key and guiding questions."

The Role of Geographical Investigations In Developing Students’ Cognitive Thinking

"In Singapore, there has been a shift in education towards more inquiry-based learning to equip students with skills for the future. Geographical Investigations (GI) have been introduced as a form of geographical inquiry where students participate actively in knowledge construction through fieldwork. Fieldwork deepens students’ understanding of content and aids in students’ affective, social, and cognitive development. However, there is limited local research on the value of Geography fieldwork in influencing students’ cognitive thinking. This paper, therefore, examines the role of GI in developing Secondary students’ cognitive thinking in Geography. Using a case-study approach, Secondary 2 students in one secondary school were interviewed before and after their GI on the topic of Transport. Data was analysed using an adapted model of Bloom’s Taxonomy. All students showed an improvement in higher-order cognitive skills after GI, specifically in the development of higher-order cognitive thinking skills and deeper thinking at particular cognitive levels."

Incorporating Mediated Learning Experience in Geography Lessons

"With the recent emphasis on 21st century competencies, inquiry-based learning has been touted as the recommended pedagogy as it attempts to move away from didactic teaching. However, an analysis of the current geography syllabus revealed three possible areas of improvement: (1) lack of intentional mediation of cognitive functions (2) lack of continuous mediation and (3) lack of emphasis on enhancing students’ dispositions in learning. From research, inquiry-based learning could be complemented by MLE, a theory developed by Feuerstein which refers to the quality interaction between the mediator and learner. Therefore, the purpose of this research paper is to explore how principles of MLE may be applied to address the aforementioned areas of improvement to enhance students’ learning in the geography classroom. Subsequently, a broad conceptualization of how MLE may be utilized to underpin the inquiry-based learning approach will be provided. "

Sampling in Geographical Fieldwork Using GIS Techniques

"Sampling is a fundamental and essential component in geographical fieldwork. Sampling is the process of gathering data from purposefully selected sites, such that the data collected best represents the general phenomenon being studied. In geography education, teachers often have to look for suitable sites for students to conduct fieldwork, for example, which location to conduct interviews. However, many teachers are afraid to venture out into unchartered territories where the potential site for fieldwork is unfamiliar. This paper seeks to illustatre the use of GIS techniques to determine the suitability of an unfamiliar site for sampling in geographical fieldwork through coastal research done on a coastline along Cha-am, Thailand."

How Does Formative, Written Feedback Help Students Improve Their Geographical Writing

"Written communication is an essential performance of understanding and critical thought for the Geography student, especially given the assessment objectives of the current national curriculum. The literature affirms that iterative pedagogies that involve formative feedback, such as drafting and process writing, can be effective for developing writing competency. This article discusses the findings of an action research project on the effectiveness of formative written feedback to help upper secondary students improve their geographical writing. The article frames formative written feedback as a constructivist pedagogical approach, and highlights that effective formative feedback should help students improve by meeting their needs for scaffolding, modeling and affirmation. More broadly, formative written feedback is a means for teachers to model for their students a reflective attitude towards learning. "

Developing a Writing Framework to Guide Students’ Writing in Geography

"This paper examines the effectiveness of using a Writing Framework to guide students to write geographically for a level descriptor question. The Writing Framework combines aspects of Paul’s EOT (Wheel of Reasoning) with Neighbour’s Core Questions to guide students’ writing. The Writing Framework provides structure in extended writing, but more importantly encourages students to consider the importance of two geographical concepts, ‘Place’ and ‘Space’, in their essay writing. The study involved 18 Secondary 5 Normal (Academic) students. The majority of the students found the Writing Framework useful and showed an improvement in test scores. The results and student feedback highlighted the potential of the Writing Framework to help students in writing geographically."

Guiding Students in Writing Data Response Answers Using Bloom’s Taxonomy for Critical Thinking

"This study focuses on improving students’ ability to respond to data response questions with two or more variables - in particular, students’ ability to describe and compare the data given in data response questions. Based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, a step-by-step guide was crafted on how to approach these type of questions. The methodology used was quantitative data derived from pre- and post-tests, and a qualitative analysis of the post-test scripts. For this research, we picked Secondary 5 Normal (Academic) students who showed difficulty in coping with data response questions that have two or more variables. We found that the guide was useful in scaffolding writing answers for the students. However, while students were able to apply the lower stages of the guide, they were not able to spiral their critical thinking skills to higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy."

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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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