Shake and Erupt: A critical reflection on teaching earthquakes and volcanoes to KS3
Perhaps the most dynamic features of the Earth’s awesome power and nature are when Volcanoes and Earthquakes occur. Their workings are at the very core of our planet’s history and their unpredictable activity continues to shake mankind’s understanding of the planet. This topic or scheme of work for my mixed ability year nine class offers a plethora of attributes that both incorporates sound core Geographic knowledge and divers teaching formats that can present a degree of awe and wonder into the minds of young people. Planning and teaching such a topic at a time when the Geography National ...view middle of the document...
I get the sense that the power has shifted too far to that of the students who have come to dictate what a good lesson ought to look like. This power shift undermines the professional teacher and can seriously detract students from learning, retaining and utilising some of the core knowledge content and skills provided by Geography. Therefore, it is my intention to use this blank canvass as a license to experiment with different pedagogical approaches in teaching earthquakes and volcanoes, which will always feature as a core topic in any National Curriculum of Geography.
I will attempt to put into practise three different conceptions of knowledge as my pedagogical approaches to plan and teach this scheme of work. The three types of conceptions are taken from Roger Firth’s chapter in the recent publication, “Debates in Geography Education” entitled, “What constitutes knowledge in geography.” Firth presents three different conceptions of knowledge that can be adapted into pedagogical styles as they underpin ‘how’ the geography is taught just as much as ‘what’ the geography is taught. The conceptions are: absolutism, constructivism and realism or rather social realism as Firth increasingly prefers to use. These conceptions will form the framework for the different types of pedagogy I intent to adopt. This essay does provide the context for these conceptions and their subsequently adapted pedagogies later, however table 1. below summaries this context and provides the 3 different pedagogies referred to throughout this essay as F1, F2, and F3.
Table 1. Summary of different conceptions of knowledge and pedagogical approaches
Conception of knowledge | Absolutism | Constructivism | Social realism |
Epistemology | • Knowledge as external, fixed and certain | • Knowledge as relativist to individual experience | • Knowledge as objective but emergent |
Curriculum | • Traditional curriculum
• Content driven
• Socially conservative | • Focus on learning and learning to learn outcomes
• Student's experiences influence curriculum | • A curriculum of engagement
• Diverse and varied
• Providing new knowledge |
Pedagogy | Future 1 (F1)
• Authoritative and didactic
• 'Dry' activities
• Fundamental skills - e.g. Reading, writing, comprehension | Future 2 (F2)
• Liberal/equality and inclusive
• Creative activities
• Students-led tasks
• Cross-cultural and transferable life skills | Future 3 (F3)
• Teacher imposes expertise as an authority
• Open-ended activities with diverse outcomes
• A thirst for traditional and new geographic knowledge |
(Adapted from Roger Firth’s chapter ‘What constitutes knowledge in geography’ 2013, pp.59-74, from “Debates in Geography,” 2013)
Apart from this aspect of ‘awe and wonder’ within the topic, there are several other key geographic educational themes which will be explored throughout this scheme of work. Rapid access to global media has meant that natural disasters which take place all...