Well, I have finally succeeded in establishing a Primary Humanities/Geography Subject Leaders’ Network for Gloucestershire!
Following interest and demand from several schools/individuals, I decided to invest some time and energy into setting up a group once my recent stint back in the classroom had drawn to a close and full-time freelancing activities resumed. Whilst I will coordinate and steer each meeting, I hope that the atmosphere will be suitably informal so that attendees feel comfortable to interact and contribute readily too. The whole purpose of this venture is to enable schools to share the cost of my expertise, which is essential when many are operating on such tight budgets, as well as facilitate the sharing of best practice among local teachers.
After a spot of research, it has been agreed to meet on a Tuesday afternoon (from 1.30 pm until 3.30 pm) on a termly basis, with one school hosting each event to keep the cost to participants to a minimum. Churchdown Village Junior School kindly offered to host our first meeting, which was to focus on enquiry-based learning and aimed:
- To ‘unpick’ the National Curriculum Programme of Study for Geography at Key Stages 1 and 2 and highlight how and where such teaching and learning fits in.
- To showcase recent examples of successful, enquiry-led, outcomes-driven teaching and learning, which may be easily adopted/adapted/developed for use with pupils in their school.
- To give participants the opportunity to network with teachers from other schools (to share best practice and establish future rapport).
- To provide attendees with a number of invaluable web-links and free resources, plus time built in to explore these and ask questions/seek advice.
The afternoon began with a 5Ws + how activity linked to enquiry in order to ‘kick start’ participants’ thinking about this particular style of teaching and learning. Despite many not knowing one another, they were forthcoming with contributions, which also helped ensure an informal, relaxed atmosphere prevailed for the remainder of the session. At this point, I also referred to the National Curriculum Programmes of Study for Key Stages 1 and 2 to highlight where such teaching and learning might be applicable and displayed a copy of the Geographical Association’s excellent assessment framework, which was produced back in 2016 when levels were removed. The latter clearly documents progression in terms of competence in geographical enquiry and the application of skills and outlines age-related expectations at Key Stage 1, lower Key Stage 2, upper Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4.
Next, I felt it important to provide a brief overview of enquiry in geography/history, projected a suitable framework for teachers and pupils to reference, discussed how to manage the four stages of enquiry, including possible audiences and means of communicating findings, as well as linking to Margaret Roberts’ work and some of the challenges of enquiry-based learning for teachers, pupils and educational contexts. I showcased a number of potential enquiries that participants could simply adopt/adapt/develop for use with pupils in their schools, ranging from investigating the school and its grounds, to becoming Eco Detectives and exploring the Vikings and Mayans from a slightly different perspective. Numerous web-links and resources were shared with professionals, many of which I had gathered from the Geographical Association’s annual conference that was recently held in their home city of Sheffield.
Then, it was time for me to hand over to teachers so that they could do some work! Knowing how pressured members of the profession are, I deliberately built in time for them to re-visit my suggestions and access web-links and resources. It was lovely to see teachers communicating with each other, whilst I answered any specific questions or gave bespoke advice to individuals. They were also set the following task:
In order to draw the session to a close, I steered a whole group discussion and invited participants to share their thoughts/ideas about future enquiry-based learning within their schools. Many had clear intentions as to what they wished to introduce, trial or develop once they left the room today and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of their efforts, along with those of their colleagues and pupils, in due course.
Teachers were then requested to take a blank postcard from the box. On the left hand side, they were asked to ‘sum up’ the session in five words or a sentence or two. On the right hand side, it was proposed that they jot down possible themes for future network meetings.
Participants ‘concluding comments’ can be found below:
‘Developing a stepping stone approach to open up enquiry-based learning for staff to plan from. Feeding it into current planning.’
‘Informative; practical ideas; resources given; able to share with others; informal/comfortable.’
‘A useful insight into enquiry-based learning.’
‘Informative; ways of enquiry; how to lead enquiries.’
‘Useful to meet Geography Coordinators; reassuring!’
‘Questions; learn; enquiry; resources; awareness.’
‘Enquiry-based learning provides children with the opportunities to own their learning.’
‘Enquiry-based learning involves all children in all aspects of the curriculum and can take place at any time of the year.’
‘Using children’s ideas to initiate enquiry.’
‘Enquiry-based learning; independence; child-led.’
‘St James’ C of E Primary in Cheltenham would be more than happy to host a session. Thank you for today.’
‘Thank you and again apologies for being late – luckily I got home without further mishap!’
Various suggested themes for future sessions were also put forward:
- Fieldwork opportunities (Gloucestershire).
- Comparison of regions, areas, countries (obvious links or do they need to be?).
- Curriculum coverage.
- Use of up-to-date ICT.
- Assessment in humanities.
- Cross-curricular writing.
- Mapping skills.
- Area comparison.
- Linking with history.
- KS1 geography and history.
- Map skills.
- Vocabulary (physical and human features).
- Map skills to develop sense of place.
- Fieldwork ideas.
- Extended writing in geography/history.
- Covering the whole curriculum (topic ideas).
- Atlas work (locational geography).
- Pupil conferencing ideas.
- Sharing children’s work/assessment.
- Writing in Foundation Subjects.
- What should enquiry-based planning look like when combining different subjects?
I will endeavour to cover as many of these themes as I can over the next few months. It may be possible to amalgamate some suggestions. However, I do wish to do each one justice and so feel confident that we have some really high quality geography happening in primary schools across the county.
Our next meeting will take place from 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm on Tuesday 26th June 2018 (venue to be confirmed). Do join us if you can; the more, the merrier!