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Planning with the national curriculum at key stage 3

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Secondary fieldwork

Planning for progress

Progression is a complicated matter, especially when linked to the technical processes of assessment. Excellent guidance on assessment exists, but planning the curriculum comes first.

The Purpose of study and Aims sections of the Programmes of Study can be a very powerful source of reflection on and assessment of the value of the curriculum. They can be used to ask some searching questions of your current curriculum, and employed as a tool to help plan and prioritise changes at the school level. It is worthwhile asking if the current school curriculum meets the criteria set out in the table below, adapted from the 2014 Aims and Purpose statements.


Reflecting on your current key stage 3

Aspect for development Aspect to maintain Aspect of strength
Inspire a curiosity and fascination about the world and its people.
Equip students with knowledge about diverse places, people, resources and natural and human environments.
Equip students with a deep understanding of Earth’s key physical and human processes.
Deepen understanding of the interaction between physical and human processes, and of the formation and use of landscapes and environments.
Provide the frameworks and approaches that explain how the Earth’s features at different scales are shaped, interconnected and change over time.
Develop contextual knowledge of the location of globally significant places – both terrestrial and marine – including their defining physical and human characteristics and how these provide a geographical context for understanding the actions of processes.
Understand the processes that give rise to key physical and human geographical features of the world, how these are interdependent and how they bring about spatial variation and change over time.
Develop the geographical skills needed to collect, analyse and communicate with a range of data gathered through experiences of fieldwork that deepen their understanding of geographical processes.
Develop the geographical skills needed to interpret a range of sources of geographical information, including maps, diagrams, globes, aerial photographs and Geographical Information Systems (GIS).
Develop the geographical skills needed to communicate geographical information in a variety of ways, including through maps, numerical and quantitative skills and writing at length.

Download table here

Richard Daugherty wrote ‘if we did not hope that students should progress we would have no foundation on which to construct a curriculum or embark on the act of teaching‘. Progression in geography defies a simplistic description or a straightforward scale of measurement. Whilst the idea can be applied to the gradual gains in knowledge, understanding, skills and competencies which students actually achieve, part of the difficulty is that this is not linear, but happens in fits and starts – with sudden bursts of progression followed by periods of consolidation where students reach a plateau and need to spend time there before the next ‘spurt’. What for one student might constitute a knowledge spurt (light bulb moment that enables shift to next level of thinking) may not be the same for another.

Instead of a simple step-by-step process, it is frequently acknowledged that geography benefits from a spiral approach to curriculum – revisiting places and topics in ways that build depth of knowledge and understanding. The following broad ‘dimensions’ of progress – what it means to ‘get better’ at geography – can be helpful when thinking about both planning and assessment:

  • Demonstrating greater fluency with world knowledge by drawing on increasing breadth and depth of content and contexts.
  • Extending from the familiar and concrete to the unfamiliar and abstract.
  • Making greater sense of the world by organising and connecting information and ideas about people, places, processes and environments
  • Working with more complex information about the world, including the relevance of people’s attitudes, values and beliefs.
  • Increasing the range and accuracy of investigative skills, and advancing their ability to select and apply these with increasing independence to geographical enquiry.

Visit our assessment support and guidance section for more information.

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