Close this search box.

Geography knowledge, concepts and skills

In 1986 in Geography from 5–16: Curriculum Matters 7 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI) of schools used the phrase the ‘elements of learning’ in which they distinguished knowledge from understanding, from skills and values. Knowledge and understanding are distinct, because conceptual understanding is far more than the mere accumulation of knowledge. But they also go together because to know something, involves understanding it.

Today we generally refer to conceptual understanding (concepts). Over the years, ‘values’ has been given less political priority in curriculum documents (although it remains an important aspect of geography teaching – see Values and controversial issues).

Skills, however, have remained important and prioritised in ‘basic skills’ and ‘twenty-first-century skills’.

In geography, place has particular importance and, therefore, it has been added into this section to consider alongside knowledge, concepts and skills as one of the key elements of geographical learning. The term Geographical Practice includes all the skills and practices that are involved in working ‘like a geographer’. 


  • Biddulph, M., Lambert, D. and Balderstone, D. (2021) Learning to Teach Geography in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience, 4th edition. London: Routledge Chapter 1
  • HMI (1986) Geography from 5–16: Curriculum Matters 7. London: HMSO.