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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 | A guide to introducing the spatial concepts | Geospatial skills | Show All

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:

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.

Spatial association
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.

Spatial interaction
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
Spatial interaction

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.

Geospatial skills

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.

Mapping conventions

Graphing conventions


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: library@gtav.asn.au

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