Teaching geography for a better world


The aim of this illustration is to make strong links between the Australian Curriculum: Geography and teaching geography for a better world. Extracts from the curriculum and discussion papers on geography's role in teaching about and improving futures, provide these links.  

Geography has a global dimension that enables young people to learn about their local area, their region, their country, and the wider world. It is through understanding the interrelationships between 'local', 'national' and 'global', and how these have changed over time, that students can make a difference. An activity linking current topics in the geography curriculum and probable and preferable futures is also provided.

Classroom application

Geography has great relevance in teaching for a better understanding of our society and environment. It is this understanding, as well as having empathy for people in the world, that is necessary if students are to contribute to improving our world. The knowledge, skills and values developed in geography can be used to improve the world through social and environmental action, and through a contribution to action about contemporary community concerns. 

David Hicks has written a number of articles that will enhance your appreciation of the potential of this approach. You can download PDF copies from his Teaching for a better world website, in particular:

Key links in the Australian Curriculum: Geography (PDF, 283 KB) summarises key elements of the Australian Curriculum: Geography that demonstrate why geography is well-placed to promote a better world.

The Student activity sheet (PDF, 236 KB) will help you to scaffold students' understanding of the potential of geography to affect positive change in communities. These activities can be undertaken as a class, in small groups or independently.

Questions for discussion

  1. How and where in the Australian Curriculum: Geography do we encourage young people to think more critically and creatively about the world in which they live?
  2. In what context can you imagine using a set of scenarios to teach geography for a better world? What would be the focus of each scenario?
  3. How does geography contribute to a critical understanding of the notion of sustainability?
  4. What types of action are required to bring about change for the future?
  5. Does education for sustainability need to be improved at your school? How can geography contribute to this?

Questions for reflection

  1. How does a study of geography enable students to think more critically about alternative futures?
  2. How important is it to provide positive future scenarios to solve geographical issues?
  3. How does the development of different scenarios help geography students to think about alternative and positive futures?
  4. Outline the ways that students can be provided with an awareness of the need for present choices to reflect preferred futures.
  5. How can the cross-curriculum priority of 'sustainability' be used to help identify preferred futures for a better world?


Books and articles:

Hicks, D. (2010). The long transition: Educating for optimism and hope in troubled times (PDF, 2050 KB). Keynote address, 3rd Annual Conference of the UK Teacher Education Network for Education for Sustainable Development/Global Citizenship. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://teaching4abetterworld.co.uk/docs/download13.pdf

Hicks, D. (2011). A sustainable future: Four challenges for geographers (PDF 137 KB). Teaching geography. 36 (1), pp. 9-11. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://teaching4abetterworld.co.uk/docs/download16.pdf.

Hicks, D. (2011). Teaching for a better world: Is it geography? (PDF, 262 KB). Presentation to Geography Education Research Group seminar at University of London Institute of Education, January 2011. Retrieved October 2012 from: http://teaching4abetterworld.co.uk/docs/download15.pdf.

Hicks, D. (2012). The future only arrives when things look dangerous: Reflections on futures education in the UK (PDF 406 KB). Futures, 44 (1), pp. 4-13. Presentation to Geography Education Research Seminar at the London Institute of Education January 2011. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://teaching4abetterworld.co.uk/docs/download17.pdf


Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). Australian Curriculum: Geography. Retrieved May 2013, from: www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Geography/Rationale

Towards a National Geography Curriculum for Australia Committee, Australian Geography Teachers Association Ltd, Institute of Australian Geographers Inc. & The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland Inc. (June 2009). Towards a National Geography Curriculum for Australia. Retrieved October 2012, from: http://www.ngc.org.au/report/Towards_a_nat_geog_curric_Final.pdf

Other relevant resources are contained in the sections above.