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What geography subject knowledge do I need?

Topics on this page:

Your geography background | What is subject knowledge? | How do I know if my subject knowledge is good enough?

Your geography background

To become a secondary geography teacher you have to meet the Teaching Standards which require secure knowledge of the subject. A good starting point is a geography degree that includes both physical and human geography.

Some ITE providers will accept candidates in a subject directly relevant to the geography specialism, such as environmental science or geology, or a joint degree, but expect you to have obtained a good geography A level. You will have to demonstrate at interview that you have not only a good understanding of the subject but also enthusiasm for geography.

What is subject knowledge?

You may be thinking here about a list of themes (e.g. coasts, volcanoes, cities) or issues (e.g. migration, development) or places (e.g. Japan, Russia). What you know about these topics is described by teachers as content knowledge. This is not merely geographical facts. It is also an understanding of underlying physical and human processes, systems and interrelationships, as well as geographical terminology, and skills, such as fieldwork, mapping, data handling and research.

Through your training you will develop your subject knowledge for teaching. A geography teacher needs to know about pupils’ experience of geography, how they learn the subject and their misconceptions; they need to know how to plan a curriculum and teach geography so that pupils make progress. Your challenge, as you become a geography teacher, will be to take your geographical content knowledge and present it to pupils so they learn to think geographically.

How do I know if my subject knowledge is good enough?

Look at this subject audit, which is typical of the ones used by ITE providers. Use this to help you to check your strengths and your weaknesses in your geography subject knowledge.

If you identify quite a few gaps in your geographical knowledge, don’t panic! It’s quite normal to need subject knowledge development in preparation for teaching. There are many trainee teachers who need to enhance their knowledge about places and in topics such as weather and climate, landscape systems, glaciation, Geographical Information Systems (GIS); and topical issues such as development, globalisation or migration (search within the Teaching Resources pages for content on these topics).

Identify key aspects of the topics(s) you need to work on by studying the examination specifications for GCSE and A level geography. Look at sample exam questions that can help you to understand what you need to know.

Spend time addressing any weaknesses in your geographical knowledge before your training starts. Some ways to do this are:

  • Join a local GA Branch and attend lectures from experts in specialist fields, usually closely related to the school curriculum.
  • Explore Teaching thematic geography on the GA website. In this section you will find a wide range of resources supporting you to develop your subject and curriculum knowledge for teaching, as well as finding useful information and links that will enable you to develop your understanding of how geography can be effectively taught in school.
  • GA publications provide subject knowledge support, for example: Top Spec Geography series, Classic Landform Guides, City Guides, Changing Geography. Our journal Geography provides up-to-date geography case studies. You can download individual articles or subscribe to the journal to gain access to an online archive all the way back to 1901!
  • Time for geography (knowledge booster videos)
  • If you have not studied some aspects of geography since A level, look at the Contemporary approaches to Geography series from Chris Kington Publishing. There are books on Human, Physical and Environmental Geography
  • If you are visiting a school geography department, ask their advice on improving your subject knowledge on specific topics. They may suggest some reading, or even lend you some resources.
  • Download Geography support and signposting for secondary ITE applicants for more ideas.

 To explore further what good geography subject knowledge means refer to Subject knowledge enhancement.

What geography subject knowledge do I need?