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Curriculum making

Three main ingredients are central to the curriculum making process. Teachers make it happen in the classroom by drawing from their knowledge of:

  • the discipline of geography – its key ideas and purposes
  • subject-specialist teaching techniques and general approaches
  • their students and how they learn.

The GA’s distinctive take on curriculum making lies at the heart of good teaching. The following pages explain curriculum making in more detail and help you in your role as a teacher and curriculum maker.

 

Curriculum making explained

Curriculum making refers to the creation of engaging and challenging educational encounters that draw upon the valuable subject resources of geography, alongside teacher knowledge and skills and the experiences of students. Curriculum making is concerned with holding all these in balance in order to bring a scheme of work or exam specification alive, enact geography and give it purpose.

The teacher plays a key role in curriculum making, not least by recognising that geography is a resource that can enable students to better understand the world and their place in it. Curriculum making is not the same as curriculum design, curriculum development or curriculum planning, as these need not always involve teachers. Curriculum making is what teachers do.

The following diagram captures the essence of curriculum making. As teachers we are always aiming for somewhere in the middle. The diagram encourages teachers to engage with their subject, consider their students and think critically about both the purpose of what they are teaching and their approach to teaching it…

Curriculum making has similarities with what central and north European educators refer to as subject didactics. The three corners of the subject didactic triangle are symbolised by the curriculum content, teacher and pupil. In this model, the teacher makes professional choices about the teaching content within the curriculum framework. Likewise, teachers adapt their teaching to the pupils in their classrooms and make the final assessment of pupils’ knowledge development.

 

The power of a well-chosen artefact

Whether it is in creating the need to know, or in providing evidence for interrogation, what often sits at the very centre of a memorable geography lesson (or sequence of lessons) is a really great resource: a video clip, a photo, amazing facts and figures, a poem or song, a first-hand account, a page of fiction, a simple but iconic diagram…the list is endless.

The difference between a curriculum resource (including the standard tools of the trade: atlases, globes, maps and textbooks) and curriculum artefact lies in the significance invested in the artefact by the curriculum maker, and the purpose and goal in using it. The word ‘artefact’ derives from the Latin phrase arte factum meaning to ‘skilfully make’. Making skilful use of resources allows artefacts to become the lynchpin of a lesson sequence. Its power is derived from how you use it, which is determined by your purposes – your curriculum making.

 

Further reading and support

Curriculum making through enquiry

Bustin, Butler and Hawley (2017) ‘GeoCapabilities: teachers as curriculum leaders’, Teaching Geography, 42, 1, pp. 61-63.

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