Approaches to The Humanities − Geography
This part is provided as a guide for teachers in preparing courses in Geography P–10. Throughout the learning focus statements and the standards, reference is made to terminology included here. This support document explains some of the terms used. A sample of resources that may be helpful is also included for each dimension of the domain.
Geographical knowledge and understanding
Geography provides a spatial perspective on the world. Geographers ask questions about why things are located where they are and in the particular patterns and arrangements in Earth space. In seeking answers to, and providing explanations for, such questions, geographers draw on their ability to observe and analyse patterns, identify associations, connections and interactions, and integrate ideas about human activities, social interaction and the natural environment.
Spatial concepts are the organising concepts common to all branches of geography. From Year 1 through to Year 10, and beyond, spatial concepts can be used and applied according to the stages of learning – laying the foundations, building breadth and depth, and developing pathways. Although there are many organising concepts, nine are commonly recognised.
Where natural and built phenomena are found on the surface of the Earth. A place has an absolute location measured accurately by co-ordinates, and a relative location measured by distance and direction from one place to another.
The term ‘scale’ includes two uses.
The map scale shows the relationship between measurements on a map and the actual measurements on the ground. Map scales are expressed in words, by a line scale, or as a representative fraction. A large-scale map covers a small area with detail; a small-scale map will cover a larger area with less detail.
The observational scale refers to the size of an area being studied. A range of scales includes the following:
- Local scale – involves the smallest area and is immediate to wherever the study is taking place; for example, fieldwork is conducted at the local scale.
- Regional scale – covers a larger area than the local scale; for example the study of the Murray–Darling Basin is at a regional scale.
- National scale – focuses study on a nation; for example, the Australian government’s response to global phenomena.
- International scale – considers two or more nations. The combined efforts of several African nations to rationalise water use on the continent would be an example.
- Global scale – considers a significant proportion of the Earth; for example, the distribution of feature film production across the Earth’s countries.
The space between different locations on Earth. The absolute or linear distance is measured in units such as metres and kilometres. The relative distance is the length of time it takes to travel from one location to another, costs involved, and the convenience of the journey.
The arrangement of things at or near the Earth’s surface viewed at a variety of scales.
A definable area of the Earth’s surface which contains one or more common characteristics that distinguish it from other areas. Regions are different for different groups of people; for example, Oakleigh South (local), Gippsland (regional), Australia (national), Sub-Saharan Africa (international).
Spatial change over time
The degree to which an area has changed its geographic characteristics, features or patterns of use over a period of time. Change occurs at varying rates at different times and may be considered at different scales; for example, a study of the redevelopment of the Melbourne Docklands since the 1990s would look at distribution, spatial association between things, movement and spatial interaction.
The change in location of one or more things across the Earth’s surface. Movement includes direction, method, rate, nature and volume.
The degree to which things are similarly arranged over space. Spatial association compares distribution patterns; for example, the distribution of highly elevated areas and vegetation. A strong spatial association occurs where two distributions are very similar. Weak association describes little similarity. No association occurs when two distributions are dissimilar.
Described in terms of the strengths of the relationships between phenomena and places in the environment, and the degree to which they influence or interact with each other over space. Over time, the impact of people on the environment changes and the environment in turn changes people; for example, how landforms could affect land settlement.
A guide to introducing the spatial concepts
|Spatial concept||P–4 Laying the foundations||5–8 Building breadth and depth||9–10 Developing pathways||VCE|
|Location||Introducing conceptual understanding||Applying the concepts||Applying geographic terminology||Utilisation of geographic language and combining spatial concepts within written text|
|Spatial change over time|
|Movement||Introducing conceptual understanding||Applying concepts and geographic terminology|
|Spatial association||Introducing and applying conceptual understanding with the use of geographic terminology|
Bourke, M 2005, The Essence of Geography: using spatial concepts, GTAV, Camberwell West.
Clark, AN 2003, The Penguin Dictionary of Geography, 3rd edn, Penguin, London.
Harte, J 2003, The New Geography Dictionary: Key Geographical Terms for the 21st Century, Geography Teachers’ Association of NSW, Gladesville.
McCaskill, M 1967, Concepts in Sixth Form Geography reprinted in Interaction, vol 32, no.3, 2004, Geography Teachers’ Association of Victoria Inc., Camberwell South.
Scoffham, S 2004, Primary Geography Handbook, Geographical Association, Sheffield, UK.
- A wide range of resources to teach topic-specific materials is available through the library of the Geography Teachers’ Association of Victoria Inc. (GTAV). Email: email@example.com
- The GTAV also supports teachers through its website with the inclusion of the ‘geography connections’ site. See www.gtav.asn.au/Organisations/index.htm.
- The GTAV provides consultancy to member schools on a wide range of aspects and is a provider of quality professional development. See www.gtav.asn.au.
A wide range of geospatial skills can be explored and developed with students across the stages of learning. Spatial data can be collected from a wide range of formats, including maps of various scales, photos, statistical data and satellite imagery, and through the use of technology. Geographers observe conventions in the representation of the information.
Observation of geographic conventions
There are conventions to follow in the preparation of clear, readable maps and graphs in geography.
- Use plain, unlined paper.
- Map work should begin in pencil, use a limited range of colour.
- Include BOLTSS with each map:
B – border to define the boundary of the map
O – orientation or north point
L – legend or key to the symbols used on the map
T – title that encompasses the content of the map
S – scale to show the difference in size of objects over distance
S – source to state the provider of the information that is mapped
- Colour should be consistent with the use of colour on topographic maps – for example, blue for water, green for vegetation.
- Labelling of features on maps should be clear and neat.
- Graphs should be drawn to suit the type of data presented.
- Take care to represent the data accurately.
- Label the graphs clearly.
- Source the data to state the provider of the information that is graphed.
- Keep colours to a minimum.
- Include SALTNA with each graph:
S – source of the data
A – axes to be labelled
L – legend of symbols if required
T – title of the data graphed
N – neatness of presentation
A – accuracy in the plotting of the data.
Fieldwork is the application of knowledge and skills learnt in the classroom to environments beyond the classroom. Fieldwork is a key element of the spatial component of geography where students can acquire knowledge by making first-hand observations, taking measurements, mapping, and recording data. The analysis of data and preparation of reports require students to become actively involved with the selected environments and, where appropriate, encourages consideration of the sustainability of environments.
Bourke, M 2003, A Guide to Fieldwork in Geography, GTAV, Camberwell West.
Australian Geography Teachers’ Association 2004, Keys to Geography: Essential skills and tools. Macmillan, South Yarra.
Harte, J and Dunbar, S 1994, Skills in Geography, Cambridge, Australia.
Job, D 1999, New Directions in Geographical Fieldwork, Cambridge, UK.
Pask, R (ed.) 1996, Heinemann Atlas Geography Skills, Port Melbourne.
Stacey, M 2004, Atlas Skills Workbook, Pearson Education Australia, Melbourne.
All these titles are available for borrowing through the library of the Geography Teachers’ Association of Victoria Inc. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org