Developing a Writing Framework to Guide Students’ Writing in Geography, pp. 2 of 7

In discussing the challenges faced by the team of Geography teachers working on this project, a common observation made was our students’ lack of reference to the Geographical concepts of ‘Place’ and ‘Space’. Of particular concern, were our students’ responses to the 8-mark Level Descriptor Questions in the GCE O-Level examinations. Level Descriptor Questions are mostly open-ended questions that require students to assess or evaluate issues or statements. These are broadly assessed based on the quality of skill or understanding identifiable in a student’s answer, where students need to demonstrate critical understandings, construct explanations, and make judgements, recommendations and decisions (SEAB exam syllabus for 2204 Combined Humanities). In geographical writing, a reference to place-based factors or differences across space as one of the bases from which to evaluate and assess issues or statements would result in qualitatively more critical and nuanced responses.

However, when students write their answers, they are more concerned in providing facts and content knowledge without reference to their understanding of geographical concepts and ideas. Aside from a lack of geographical thinking in their writing, our students also faced problems structuring their essay questions. The weaker students faced difficulties in developing a coherent answer. They tended to repeat their points and some struggled with how they could begin their answers.

Our research therefore focused on the following area: To what extent does the use of a Writing Framework that emphasizes ‘Place’ and ‘Space’ improve the quality of students’ answers to level descriptor answers in Geography?

Developing a Writing Framework for Improved Geographical Writing

Paul’s Wheel of Reasoning is a graphic organiser comprising eight elements of productive thinking or Elements of Thought (EOT). It promotes logical reasoning and combines both creative and critical thinking skills. According to Paul and Elder (2010), critical thinking provides a way of deeply embracing content intellectually. Students need to be able to identify the parts of their thinking and assess their use of these parts (Paul and Elder, 1997). The elements act as natural scaffolds that can stretch students’ thinking to higher and more sophisticated levels. So far, there has been little research conducted on the use of EOT to improve Geographical writing.

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

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up-to-date with new journal issues!