A key feature of the Australian Curriculum: Geography is the emphasis assigned to the geographical inquiry process. The inquiry process provides a scaffold on which to structure geographical investigations. It also encourages 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
- 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 5 and Year 6.
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 the skills of analysing and concluding, oral and written communication, and reflection.
Geographical skills are the abilities to use methods and tools that 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.
In Years 5-6 students collaborate to plan an inquiry and collect and record information from different sources. Specific new geographical skills introduced at this time include:
- interpreting spatial distributions
- comparing places
- making and interpreting graphs
- constructing large and small scale maps
- using spatial, information and communication technologies.
About the illustrations
Illustration 1: Citizenship in action – Year 5. The focus here is on the influence that people have on the human characteristics of places and the spaces within them. Students consider a range of perspectives related to a hypothetical planning issue. They develop an understanding of why people can legitimately hold different points of views on the issue. In doing so, they work collaboratively to formulate a considered response to the issue, debate, evaluate and reflect on alternative responses, and then argue a personal point of view in the form of a written exposition.
Illustration 2: Contemporary geographical issues and the media – Year 6. The second illustration develops students' skills in the critical use of the media when investigating events that connect places throughout the world. In doing so, they learn how to access, select and evaluate media-based sources of information. They learn how to identify the perspective from which the information is constructed and determine whether or not they agree with the author's or creator's point of view. They learn to differentiate between what is 'factual' reporting and what is 'opinion'. Of particular relevance here is the role the media plays in bringing contemporary geographical issues and phenomena to the attention of students. When a natural disaster strikes, or a global sporting competition or cultural performance takes place, it is the media that brings the event into our lounge rooms, or increasingly to the mobile electronic devices that keep us constantly connected and informed.