Structure of Geography

Structure of Geography


In Senior Secondary Geography, students develop their understanding about themes of immediate relevance to them and which have scope for application at a variety of scales, from the local to the global. There are four units:

Unit 1: Natural and ecological hazards

Unit 2: Sustainable places

Unit 3: Land cover transformations

Unit 4: Global transformations.

In Units 1 and 2 students are provided with a sound foundation for the study of the subject at the senior level. They are introduced to natural and ecological hazards, and challenges related to the liveability of places. In Unit 1, students examine the management of hazards and the risk they pose to people and environments. Risk management is defined in terms of preparedness, mitigation and/or prevention. In Unit 2, students investigate how the outcomes of processes, for example, population growth and decline, and economic restructuring, vary depending on local responses and adaptations. In this unit students also examine the causes and consequences of urbanisation with specific reference to the megacities of the developing world.

In Units 3 and 4 students apply the understandings and skills of Geography with greater rigour. They focus on human-initiated changes to biophysical cover of the earth’s surface, leading to the creation of anthropogenic biomes, and the processes of international integration (globalisation). In Unit 3, students assess the impacts of land cover transformations with particular reference to climate change. In Unit 4, students evaluate the economic and cultural transformations taking place in the world, the spatial outcomes of these processes, and their social and geopolitical consequences. Through this study, students will be better able to understand the dynamic nature of the world in which they live.

Each unit comprises:

  • a unit description – a short description of the purpose of and rationale
  • learning outcomes – between five to seven statements describing the learning expected as a result of studying the unit
  • content descriptions – descriptions of the essential content to be taught and learned, organised into two strands:
    • Geographical Knowledge and Understanding
    • Geographical Inquiry and Skills.

Organisation of content

The Australian Curriculum: Geography has two interrelated strands: Geographical Knowledge and Understanding and Geographical Inquiry and Skills. These strands are used to organise the geography learning from Foundation to Year 12. In the senior secondary Australian Curriculum: Geography the two strands build on students’ learning from the Foundation to Year 10 Australian Curriculum: Geography. This strand organisation provides an opportunity to integrate content in flexible and meaningful ways.

Geographical knowledge and understanding

Geographical knowledge refers to the facts, generalisations, principles, theories and models developed in Geography. This knowledge is dynamic and its interpretation can be contested. Opinions and conclusions must be supported by evidence and logical argument.

Geographical understanding is the ability to see the relationships between items of knowledge and construct explanatory frameworks to illustrate these relationships. It is also the ability to apply this knowledge to new situations or to solve new problems.

Geographical inquiry and skills

Geographical inquiry is a process by which students learn and deepen their understanding. It involves individual or group investigations that start with geographical questions and proceed through the collection, interpretation, analysis and evaluation of information to the development of conclusions and proposals for actions. Inquiries may vary in scale and geographic context.

Geographical skills are the techniques that geographers use in their investigations undertaken during fieldwork and in classrooms. Students learn to think critically about the methods used to get information and represent, analyse and interpret it and communicate findings. Key skills developed through the Australian Curriculum: Geography include formulating a question and research plan; and recording and representing data, using a variety of spatial technologies including, where appropriate, geographic information systems. Students also learn to communicate using geographical terminology.

Relationships between the strands

The two strands are interrelated and the content has been written in a way that enables integration of the strands in the development of a teaching and learning program. The Geographical Knowledge and Understanding strand provides the contexts through which particular inquiries and skills are to be developed. The same set of geographical skills has been included in each of the four units to provide a common focus for the teaching and learning of content in the Geographical Knowledge and Understanding strand.

Organisation of achievement standards

The achievement standards in Geography have been organised into two dimensions: ‘Geographical Knowledge and Understanding’ and ‘Geographical Inquiry and Skills’. These two dimensions reflect students’ understanding and skills in the study of Geography. Senior secondary achievement standards have been written for each Australian Curriculum senior secondary subject.

The achievement standards indicate typical performance at five different levels (corresponding to grades A to E) following the completion of study of senior secondary Australian Curriculum content for a pair of units. They are broad statements of understanding and skills that are best read and understood in conjunction with the relevant unit content. They are structured to reflect key dimensions of the content of the subjects in the relevant learning area. Eventually they will be accompanied by illustrative and annotated samples of student work/performance/responses. The achievement standards will be refined empirically through an analysis of samples of student work and responses to assessment tasks: they cannot be maintained a priori without reference to actual student performance. Inferences can be drawn about the quality of student learning on the basis of observable differences in the extent, complexity, sophistication and generality of the understanding and skills typically demonstrated by students in response to well-designed assessment activities and tasks.

In the short term, achievement standards will inform assessment processes used by curriculum, assessment and certifying authorities for course offerings based on senior secondary Australian Curriculum content.

ACARA has made reference to a common syntax (as a guide, not a rule) in constructing the achievement standards across the subjects within each learning area. The common syntax that has guided development is as follows:

  1. Given a specified context (as described in the curriculum content)
  2. With a defined level of consistency/accuracy (the assumption that each level describes what the student does well, competently, independently, consistently)
  3. Students perform a specified action (described through a verb)
  4. In relation to what is valued in the curriculum (specified as the object or subject)
  5. With a defined degree of sophistication, difficulty, complexity (described as an indication of quality).

Terms such as ‘analyse’ and ‘describe’ have been used to specify particular action but these can have everyday meanings that are quite general. ACARA has therefore associated these terms with specific meanings that are defined in the senior secondary achievement standards glossary and used precisely and consistently across the subjects within each learning area.