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Physical Geography Special Interest Group

Weathered away‘ by Joe Syer, Cheadle Hulme High School – a winning entry in the GA Physical Geography Photograph Competition, organsied by the PGSIG. Located in Whitby, this photo cleverly incorporates perspective, depth, time, scale and people to illustrate the significant but subliminal influence of physical geography on our lives; in this case the processes forming a landscape that provides key ingredients making an ideal holiday location.


Chair: Duncan Hawley

Get in touch by email

PGSIG Blog: Teaching Physical Geography

Facebook: GA Physical Geography Special Interest Group

X (formerly Twitter): GA Physical Geography Special Interest Group

Our purpose

The role of the Physical Geography SIG (PGSIG) is to enhance and support the teaching and learning of physical geography in primary and secondary schools.

Our aim is to be the ‘trusted voice’ in matters relating to the teaching of physical geography.

How we do this

  • Advocating the importance of physical geography in the school curriculum; particularly critical thinking through physical geography, its relevance to society (practical application) and its value for intellectual development (curiosity and explanation) and spiritual development (awe, wonder) and well-being (aesthetic appreciation enhancement).
  • Promoting effective teaching strategies and pedagogies for teaching physical geography topics in the curriculum, particularly approaches that inspire students’ interest, make topics accessible and encourage active teaching and learning.
  • Encouraging and promoting up-to-date understanding of physical geography knowledge and concepts relevant to teachers.
  • Collaborating with cognate Earth science groups and organisations and where appropriate, providing representation to external bodies concerned with educational and curriculum development.
  • Meeting once a term to discuss relevant issues and projects, and decide on actions for progress.
  • Sharing updates/discussions on physical geography subject knowledge, pedagogic approaches and resources via the PGSIG online communication channels, our Blog site,  Facebook page and X (formerly Twitter) account, plus workshop/discussion presentations at GA Conferences.
  • Organising the GA Physical Geography Student Photography Competition for students to encourage independent discovery and application of classroom learning by capturing physical geography in the real world on camera.
  • Contributing to the annual GA Annual Conference, where we deliver ‘hands-on’ workshops that provide interesting ways to teach physical geography topics that can seem remote or tricky, coordinate debates that stimulate teachers into thinking about the place of physical geography in the curriculum and suggest lectures by leading physical geographers.
  • Commenting on and advising on physical geography content of materials and resources published by the GA.
  • Writing articles for the GA Magazine and Teaching Geography journal.
  • Seeking out and exploiting opportunities where learning about physical geography makes a positive impact on students’ understanding about and appreciation of the world.
  • Responding to GCSE and A level consultations.


Who we are

We are teachers, geography educators and teacher educators who are passionate about physical geography within geography and beyond, not least because we appreciate the power it can give to experiencing and understanding the world around us, and the pleasure students can derive from ‘getting it’ when they encounter the physical world beyond the classroom. We work in a range of different types of schools and educational settings.

  • Duncan Hawley (Chair)
  • Adam Corbridge (Communications Coordinator)
  • Karen Dunn
  • Alison Dunphy
  • Keith Hicks
  • Janet Hutson
  • John Lyon
  • Ryan Nock
  • Philip Monk


Our future plans

We are planning to:

  1. Support the GA in becoming a ‘trusted voice’ in matters relating to the teaching of physical geography, particularly in quality assurance and advising on the accuracy of teaching materials and resources, and working with other organisations.
  2. Continuing to develop the physical geography photo competition.
  3. Work with other volunteer groups to scrutinise exam specifications and exam papers, offering feedback to exam boards.
  4. Continue to create and develop stimulating resources to support teachers improve the quality of teaching and learning of physical geography in the National Curriculum, at GCSE and at A level.
  5. Continue to update teacher subject knowledge on aspects of physical geography through sharing resources and updates in articles for the GA Magazine and Teaching Geography journal.
  6. Look for and exploit opportunities where learning about physical geography makes a positive impact on students’ understanding about and appreciation of the world.


Getting involved

We are always keen to hear suggestions for useful projects from teachers (primary or secondary), so please do send ideas of what you think might be useful for our consideration.

If you are interested in joining or contributing to PGSIG in other ways then please get in touch with the Chair, Duncan Hawley.


The PGSIG at the GA Annual Conference

2022 Guildford

Workshop 8, KS3-P16

Encountering carbon in the everyday world

Keith Hicks, Ryan Nock and Duncan Hawley, GA PGSIG

Download: Resources ZIP file

2021 online conference

Workshop, KS3-P16

The Plate Tectonic Story

Duncan Hawley, GA PGSIG

The Plate Tectonic Story

2019 Manchester

Workshop 19, KS3-P16

Awe, wonder and pure power: Physical geography and powerful knowledge

Duncan Hawley, GA PGSIG, and other members of PGSIG


Workshop 57- Rainforest refresher

Duncan Hawley, Chair, and Members, GA Physical Geography Special Interest Group
Tired with teaching about tropical rainforests in the same old way? This session revealed insights into the physical geography of tropical rainforests and explored how some of the latest understanding linking to diversity, landforms and the water cycle can be incorporated into teaching through active approaches.

Presented by GA Physical Geography Special Interest Group
Powerpoint Presentation

Field Visit- Changing places: How ‘authentic’ is the Neepsend and Kelham area of Sheffield?

Duncan Hawley, Chair, GA Physical Geography Special Interest Group
This field ‘case study’ visited an area that characterises change in Sheffield. Participants used a range of clues to assess how a place is ‘lived’ in, is being represented and is changing. The goal was to decide whether the place and its change are ‘authentic’ or being designed/developed in such a way that any attachment to its ‘residual’ character and identity are superficial or extinguished.

Download: PDF

Friday 6 April

Field Visit- The city that rocks: geographical fieldwalk using real-world geology in an urban setting

Duncan Hawley, Chair, GA Physical Geography Special Interest Group and Member, Sheffield Area Geology Trust
A 1km fieldwalk around Sheffield city centre shows how stone buildings can be used as a resource for learning about a variety of rocks, here ranging in age from 1500 million to less than 2 million years old. Delegates gained identification skills, experience the effects of rock weathering, and discussed innovative and engaging fieldwork strategies and creative recording methods.

Download: PDF


Debate – The Anthropocene: physical geography or popular culture?

Chair: Duncan Hawley, Chair, GA Physical Geography Special Interest Group Panel: Professor Mark Williams, Professor of Palaeobiology, Department of Geology, University of Leicester, and Dr Alex Standish, Senior Lecturer in Geography Education, UCL Institute of Education
This debate will consider the concept of the Anthropocene and the extent to which it is an opportunity and a challenge for geography education. Two experts will outline different perspectives on what the Anthropocene may or may not be, followed by audience participation exploring the possible implications for curriculum and teaching.

Download: Overview (PDF)
Download: Useful references (PDF)

Workshop 8 – Making physical geography accessible

Janet Hutson, Member, GA Physical Geography Special Interest Group
This session will explore if there is any truth in the urban myth that physical geography is harder than other aspects of geography, what aspects of physical geography students teachers commonly find ‘tricky’ and provide opportunity to trial practical activities and approaches that can help make physical geography inclusive, accessible and inspiring.

Download: Presentation (PDF)
Download: Activity sheet (PDF)
Download: Activity sheet (PDF)
Download: Activity sheet (PDF)
Download: Activity sheet (PDF)


Workshop 47 – Physical impact: sudden or slow?

Duncan Hawley, Chair and Janet Hutson, Keith Hicks, Philip Monk and John Lyon, Members, GA Physical Geography Special Interest.

This session will explore teaching strategies and activities that tackle the tricky idea of how timescales affect landscapes and environments. It will consider approaches to finding evidence of the short- and long-term impact of physical processes, and highlight how these key concepts/skills are fundamental to students’ appreciation of effective decision-making in issues linked to physical environments.

Download:  (PDF)

Download: Activity 1 Outline  (PPT)

Download: Activity 1 Notes for Teachers  (PDF)

Download: Activity 1 Activity Sheet  (PDF)

Download: Activity 1 Activity Sheet  (PDF)

Download: Activity 2 Outline  (PDF)

Download: Activity 2 Powerpoint  (PPT)

Download: Activity 2 Powerpoint  (PPT)

Download: Activity 3 Outline  (PDF)

Download: Activity 3 Activity Sheet  (PDF)

Download: Previous years’ PGSIG Conference highlights

Become a member

GA membership provides specialist support and expert advice for geography teaching

Geography Quality Marks

Register for the 2025 Quality Mark before 31 July and receive a 20% discount off your fee

Geographical model making competition

Encourage your pupils to get involved and explore their creativity and geographical knowledge by creating a 3D model. Entries close 31 July 2024