Overview

Geographical inquiry

A key feature of the Australian Curriculum: Geography is the emphasis attached to the geographical inquiry. The geographical inquiry process provides a scaffold on which to structure investigations. It also facilitates the use of a range of pedagogies, from short classroom activities through to entire units of work. While these approaches might include teacher-directed forms of instruction, they are particularly suited to more collaborative approaches to teaching and learning, especially as students get older and develop the requisite skills.

The stages of the inquiry process are:

  • observing, questioning and planning
  • collecting, recording, evaluating and representing
  • analysing and concluding
  • communicating
  • reflecting and responding.

A more detailed explanation of these stages can be found in the Australian Curriculum: Geography. Also of relevance is the Curriculum's Scope and sequence of inquiry and skills and the achievement standards for Year F, Year 1, Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4.

Through the use of the inquiry process students master and deploy a wide range of geographical skills to help them plan investigations and to interpret, collect, analyse and evaluate information. 

The illustrations presented here focus on collecting, recording, representing and analysing information.

Geographical skills

Geographical skills are the abilities to use methods and tools which geographers use when undertaking an inquiry. These skills are evident when planning and undertaking an investigation, collecting, manipulating and interpreting data, and when responding and reflecting on an investigation. 

Geographical skills can be broadly grouped using the same structure as a geographical inquiry. Geographical skills are typically relevant in the context of a geographical inquiry but they may also be used in an unconnected manner or stand-alone activity to develop understanding around an issue of study.

Specific geographical skills introduced throughout the early years include:

  • observing and describing the features of places
  • drawing a map
  • using directional language
  • understanding distance 
  • interviewing relatives. 

About the illustrations

Illustration 1: Investigating places in which we live – Year F. The focus here is on the use of Google Earth to observe and record geographical information about the places in which we live. We begin with the school and its playground. Students identify elements of the environment that are familiar to them. Observing these features from above enables them to produce simple pictorial representations of the school. The activity can be extended to observing features in the vicinity of the school that students may be familiar with. Depending on the circumstances, students may be able to observe their own home and that of their friends. You might also like to show students the 'bird's-eye' view of familiar iconic structures, for example, the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Parliament House in Canberra. 

Illustration 2: Field and photo sketching – Years 1–4. The second illustration develops the skills of field and photo sketching. The acquisition of these skills allows students to record their observations and facilitated interpretation. The curriculum focus of this illustration is the distinction between natural, managed and constructed environments.