Task 5: Differentiation in the Humanities – Geography

Case study #2 (Salton & Chalk, 2017)
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The above scenario foregrounds policy issues, including how the school of this particular student defines gifted and talented students (GATS) and what support is available for these students. It does not define GATS, however, so this blog post uses following definition: “gifted pupils are those students most academically able,” (EdChat, 2013).

Standards 1.5 and 1.6 of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, require teachers to differentiate their teaching to meet individual needs, and demonstrate a broad understanding of strategies to support the participation of students with disability (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AITSL], 2017). Both of these standards refer to the teaching of gifted and talented students (GATS), and those with lower academic ability and disability.

A study by Rowley identifies 12 instructional strategies successful in facilitating learning for GATS. To summarise, teachers should employ teaching strategies which: “accommodate the individual; motivate and provide opportunities; develop talent; differentiate the depth and pace and offer challenging content and promote higher-level thinking” (2008).

In this situation, my responsibility as a teacher is to meet the needs of all my learners. For this particular student who is gifted in numeracy, I need to ensure that I do not teach, but rather facilitate the learning in this area. It is important that I provide this student with choices/options, and opportunities to connect with ideas at a higher level of thinking (Rowlely, 2008).

Literacy, specifically spelling, is an area in which this student struggles. It is therefore important to increase their sense of efficacy, helping them achieve at a higher level (Howard & McCabe, 2004). To do this, Howard and McCabe (2004) highlight the importance of teachers strengthening students’ expectations of success rather than failure; tasks should match the student’s ability levels, and challenge, not frustrate them. Other instructional principles should also be implemented: linking new work to recent successes; reinforcing effort and persistence; and helping students create personally important goals.

To improve this student’s spelling, they could read out-loud from a piece of writing of his/her choice, applying his/her public speaking skills. The student can then independently identify the words he/she has trouble spelling from this piece of writing by creating a spelling list on the computer. The spelling list compiled by the student could be distributed to the parent to reinforce and practice at home, taking advantage of the parent’s support and collaboration. If the student selects the piece of writing, practices their public speaking, and independently identifies spelling words to later practice, the student may regain and strengthen interest and self-efficacy.

If the student has a disability, the Disability Discrimination and Disabling Standards for Education is relevant. It includes information about making reasonable assessment adjustments, available support services, and curriculum development and delivery (2005). The Guidance Notes provide additional material that compliment the standards, designed to enhance the understanding and application of the standards.

Petrilli acknowledges that the greatest challenge in schools today is the “enormous variation in the academic level of students” in the classroom (2011). As a humanities teacher, it is important I know my learners’ needs and implement differentiation to meet them.

Photo by Sequent Learning Networks on Google Images


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2016). Student Diversity. Retrieved August 16, 2017, from http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/student-diversity.

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AITSL]. (2017). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved August 16, 2017, from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/standards.

EdChat. (2013). Teachers TV: Gifted and Talented. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awo4yGIJ7w8.

Department of Education and Training. (2005). Disability Standards for Education 2005. Retrieved August 18, 2017, from https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/disability_standards_for_education_2005_plus_guidance_notes.pdf.

Howard, M., McCabe, P. (2004). Self- Efficacy: A key to Improving the Motivation of Struggling Learners. Retrieved August 16, 2017, from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=a065d11c-e0b7-438a-a0e9-ed7580e60c2c%40sessionmgr101.

Petrilli, M. (2011). All Together Now? Educating high and low achievers in the same classroom. Retrieved August 16, 2017, from http://educationnext.org/all-together-now/.

Rowley, J. (2008). Teaching strategies to facilitate learning for gifted and talented students. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/fullText;dn=720828846652095;res=IELAPA.

Salton, Y., Chalk, T. (2017). Module 3 – The Humanities for Everyone. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from https://lor.usq.edu.au/usq/file/16f9d986-b194-4a29-af0e-1b0e95f592fb/1/EDS4408%20-%20Module%203.pdf.

Task 4: Literacy and Numeracy in the Humanities

Across the Australian Curriculum students develop the knowledge and skills to become literate and numerate. Literacy and Numeracy are General Capabilities, combined with curriculum content and cross-curriculum priorities to promote successful work and life for young Australians in the 21st Century (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2017a).

Within the Literacy continuum there are 2 overarching processes:
1. Comprehending texts through listening, reading and viewing, AND
2. Composing texts through speaking, writing and creating.

These 2 processes incorporate 4 areas of knowledge:
1. Text knowledge
2. Grammar knowledge
3. Word knowledge, AND
4. Visual knowledge (ACARA, 2017b)

ACARA also provides a Learning Continuum, whereby certain Literacy skills are aligned with the years of schooling. E.g. “Typically by the end of Year 10, students…” (2017c).

Numeracy also has a continuum. It is organised into 6 interrelated elements:
1. Estimating and calculating with whole number
2. Recognising and using patterns and relationship
3. Using fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios and rate
4. Using spatial reasoning
5. Interpreting statistical information
6. Using measurement (ACARA, 2017e).

Again, ACARA also provides the Learning Continuum for Numeracy for teachers to use as a guide.

In order for students to successfully engage in the Humanities, students require sound knowledge and understanding of certain literacy and numeracy skills. As identified by ACARA’s  ‘Key Skills for Humanities and Social Sciences‘ students in the humanities need to be able to:
develop questions;
research, collect data and organise information;
analyse and interpret information, identify key points, purpose and reliability of sources;
evaluate, draw conclusions and suggest courses of action; and
communicate and present findings in appropriate forms for the appropriate audience, including the correct use of subject-specific terminology (ACARA, 2017d).

The table below links this information to examples of literacy and numeracy skills required in Geography.

Literacy Numeracy
Questioning For students’ to successfully form geographical inquiry questions they need to have an understanding of the learning area vocabulary and have sufficient knowledge in spelling (word knowledge).
Research For students to adequately collect and organise information they need to be aware of text structures and text cohesion (text knowledge). The research process in Geography often requires students’ to interpret statistical information. For example, when creating a climate graph, students’ need to find and understand the relevant data, to plot onto a graph. An example of this can be seen in the featured image of this blog post.
Analyse In analysing and interpreting information, students’ require sound knowledge of grammar, specifically: sentence structures, words and word groups, and an understanding of how opinion and points of view are expressed in texts (grammar knowledge).
Evaluate If following this order, students should now be able to combine their knowledge of words, text and grammar to draw conclusions and suggest action. Using the same example of a climate graph, when evaluating, students need to be able to recognise and identify patterns and relationships. For example, high rainfall might correlate with high temperatures.
Communicate To effectively present their findings, students need to understand how visual elements create meaning (visual knowledge) To present information in the climate graph, students need to calculate, use spatial reasoning and measurement skills to accurately plot the data.

The below scenario has been chosen for this blog post to address the literacy and numeracy skills necessary for students to successfully engage in the Humanities.

Case study #1: (Salton & Chalk, 2017)
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When focussing on literacy and numeracy, the student in the above case study clearly struggles in this area and will need support to both understand key concepts and express their knowledge and ideas. The student has support from home and would most likely respond to encouragement and receive a boost in confidence if given a few tasks within his/her capabilities to help him/her see themselves as literate and numerate.

Other appropriate strategies would be to break learning into manageable chunks and provide visual and verbal prompts. Wherever possible, combining visuals/graphic organisers to support written work may assist this student as well as providing these tasks to the tutor to review and revise with the student.

In helping this student to write I could provide an exemplar and scaffold the learning into appropriate size chunks. I could also provide him/her with sentence starters and a scribe, or technology that uses speech-to-text applications.

Photo by KS3 Geography on YouTube


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2017a). Home / F-10 Curriculum / Humanities and Social Sciences / Geography / General Capabilities. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from http://v7-5.australiancurriculum.edu.au/humanities-and-social-sciences/geography/general-capabilities.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2017b). Home / F-10 Curriculum / General Capabilities / Literacy / Organising elements. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from http://v7-5.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/literacy/organising-elements/organising-elements.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2017c). Home / F-10 Curriculum / General Capabilities / Literacy / Continuum. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from http://v7-5.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/literacy/continuum#layout=columns&page=9.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2017d). Home / F-10 Curriculum / Humanities and Social Sciences / Key Skills. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from http://v7-5.australiancurriculum.edu.au/humanities-and-social-sciences/key-skills.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2017e). F-10 Curriculum / General Capabilities / Numeracy / Organising elements. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from http://v7-5.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/numeracy/organising-elements/organising-elements.

Salton, Y., Chalk, T. (2017). Module 3 – The Humanities for Everyone. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from https://lor.usq.edu.au/usq/file/16f9d986-b194-4a29-af0e-1b0e95f592fb/1/EDS4408%20-%20Module%203.pdf.

Task 3: Reflecting on safety in the Humanities – Geography

As per the Australian Professional Teaching Standards 4.4 and 7.2, teachers must “maintain student safety” (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AITSL], 2017) and “comply with legislative, administrative and organisational requirements” (AITSL, 2017), such as policies and processes, which include those outlined by Education Queensland (EQ).

Reflecting upon my practicum placement experiences concerning safety within Geography, there were two key incidents, with one inside of the classroom, and the other outside of the regular classroom.

During my most recent placement, I was fortunate enough to attend the Year 12 Geography Camp, whereby a major part of the students’ Field Research Report was formed by exploring the impact of the viticulture industry on the natural environment.

After a long and tedious journey to the camps destination, students were required to begin setting up, starting with tents. Considering that most students involved had attended the Year 10 Geography camp only two years prior, it was presumed that the students would be able to erect their tents in a prompt and safe manner. These being the circumstances which possibly lead to the first incident.

Two male students, one of who was the School Captain, decided it would be a ‘fun’ idea to throw their tent pegs into the air, participating in a game of chicken waiting for them to land in the ground. Both students were wearing minimal foot protection – thongs – with several other students only meters away, oblivious to what was going on. There were 2 practising teachers, and myself, a pre-service teacher who witnessed these 2 males acting in an unsafe manner. One of the practising teachers explicitly told the 2 students to stop what they were doing and to focus on setting up the tents like all the others.

Upon reflection, I do not believe this incident was handled appropriately by the practising teacher. The 2 students should have been removed from the task of setting up the tents and spoken to about the safety implications their actions could have led to. All students should have been wearing protective footwear in the first place.

The second incident in which the issue of safety arose was again on my most recent practicum, however, this time in a Year 8 Geography classroom. Students were working independently, revising for their upcoming Geography exam. Expectations were clear, that students were to work either silently and independently, or quietly in pairs. One student who sits in the back corner of the room each lesson repeatedly misbehaves and does not work well with other students. In this lesson, this particular student was swinging back on his chair and spinning a pair of scissors in his hands. Several safety concerns are present here. One, danger to this individual student swinging on his chair with an extremely sharp and dangerous object, and two, the threat to the other students in the room if the scissors departed from this student’s hands. The practising teacher immediately told the student to put the scissors away and to stop swinging on his chair. The student listened to the teacher’s instruction for about 10 minutes, and then returned to swinging and spinning the scissors to which went unnoticed by the teacher who was working with other students.

Upon reflection, this incident was not handled well by the practising teacher. The scissors could have been removed completely from the student’s possession and the student could have been asked to stand for 10 minutes, with his chair removed, before earning back his chair. There should also have been a one-on-one discussion with the student regarding the safety implications of his actions.

There is an abundance of information on EQ’s website about the hazards and risks associated within schools. The website provides information about managing common hazards, as well as the Curriculum Activity Risk Management Guidelines (CARA), which provide essential information about risk assessments.

The study of Geography often involves field trips or excursions, therefore it is of vital importance that I am aware of the requirements of providing a safe environment and how to minimise risks associated with learning both inside and outside of the regular classroom. This can include seemingly innocuous activities like bush-walking, which can be very hazardous if students and staff are not adequately prepared.

Photo by Elly McCulloch – Stanthorpe, 2017


Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AITSL]. (2017). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved August 14, 2017, from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/standards.

Department of Education and Training. (2014). Hazards and Risks. Retrieved August 14, 2017, from http://education.qld.gov.au/health/safety/hazards.html.

Task 2: Self-assessment and student learning in the Humanities – Geography

Through geographical inquiry, students develop critical thinking skills and an appreciation for different viewpoints in our constantly changing and interconnected world.

As outlined in the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority’s (QCAA) Geography Senior Syllabus document, Geographical skills that students learn include retrieving information – i.e. researching statistics – and creating, manipulating and presenting information – i.e. creating a graph that represents said statistics (2007). Thinking skills developed through the study of Geography include the recalling of knowledge, analytical processes such as interpretation; analysis of relationships, cause and effect, decision-making processes – i.e. evaluating or making judgements and justifications using evidence. Communication skills developed include the conventions for written communication, for instance acknowledging sources and adhering to the structure of a field report; oral communication, such as using the appropriate geographical terms when investigating; and cartographic and graphical communication, which can include graphing and mapping (QCAA, 2007).

Students develop these skills through key learning experiences that are aligned to Geography’s general objectives and exit criteria: knowledge, analytical processes, decision-making processes, research and communication (QCAA, 2007).

Geographical skills can also be found in the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority’s (ACARA), General and Cross-curriculum Capabilities. For example, the cross curriculum priority of ‘Sustainability’, where students’ determine actions that could support a more sustainable way of living (ACARA, 2017).

As a humanities teacher, I plan to implement a constructivist approach to my inquiry pedagogy, meaning my teaching is learner focused, and therefore promotes “active, cooperative, problem-based learning” (Salton & Chalk, 2017).

Duarte’s paper written about what constitutes ‘good teaching’ provides valuable resources from its “insightful reflections of experience and successful teachers” that each have over 10 years teaching experience (2013).

Like Jade, a marketing teacher in Duarte’s study, I believe that teachers “do not need to know everything”, rather, “they must be enablers of learning” (2013). Knowledge derives from multiple sources- “including our own students” (Duarte, 2013). Therefore, good teaching works in collaboration with both teacher and learners, developing a space where together knowledge is discovered.

Research highlights that there is little evidence to support the correlation between a teacher’s subject knowledge and student achievement. John Hattie, a well-renowned education academic, supports that content knowledge is only a “minor consideration” in academic achievement (Heggart, 2016). Hattie even conducted a meta-analysis that identified 138 different factors influencing learning.

“Teacher subject-matter knowledge had an effect size of 0.19, meaning that it was far less effective than other factors like classroom management (0.52) or effective teacher feedback (0.75)” (Heggart, 2016).

Yes subject knowledge is still vital, however, on its own it will not positively impact student achievement. Keith Heggart, a High School teacher from Sydney, explains it best: teachers “need a wide range of different skills and attitudes… these should include relationships with students, subject matter knowledge and an understanding of pedagogical processes” (2016). In weaving this range of abilities together, teachers will be able to provide the most meaningful learning experiences.

For me as a pre-service teacher it is now clear to me that though content knowledge is important, it is not the only thing that will enable me to be a good teacher. I need to balance this with even more critical knowledge of my learners – the student’s in front of me. This links directly to the Professional Standard for Teachers 1.2: understanding how students learn and the implications for teaching (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AISTL], 2017).

Photo by BAM! Radio Network on Google Images


Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority [ACARA]. (2017). Home / F-10 Curriculum / Humanities and Social Sciences / Geography/ Cross-curriculum priorities. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from http://v7-5.australiancurriculum.edu.au/humanities-and-social-sciences/geography/cross-curriculum-priorities.

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AITSL]. (2017). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved August 12, 2017, from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/teach/standards.

Duarte, F. (2013). Conceptions of Good Teaching by Good Teachers: Case Studies from an Australian University. Retrieved August 12, 2017, from http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1276&context=jutlp.
Heggart, K. (2016). How Important is Subject Matter Knowledge for a Teacher? Retrieve August 12, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/how-important-subject-matter-knowledge-teacher.

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority [QCAA]. (2007). Senior Syllabus: Geography. Retrieved August 12, 2017, from https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/downloads/senior/snr_geography_07_syll.pdf.

The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland. Geography Years 1 to 10, Studies of Society and Environment, Key Learning Area. Retrieved August 12, 2017, from https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/downloads/p…/research_qscc_sose_geography_00.docx.

Salton, Y., Chalk, T. (2017). Module 2 – Pedagogical Priorities in Humanities Education. Retrieved August 5, 2017, from https://lor.usq.edu.au/usq/file/c4665bb1-c42b-4fd0-91b9-f43261c98c11/1/EDS4408%20-%20Module%202.pdf.

Task 1: Mis/pre-conceptions in the Humanities – Geography

Incorrect views and opinions – often referred to as misconceptions – and ideas formed prior to sufficient information – otherwise known as preconceptions (Engleman & Huntoon, 2011) – influence the way we understand the world, and those within it. The Humanities, specifically Geography, is “the study of locations and the relationships between people and their environments” (National Geographic, 2017). The humanities as a whole, are often an undervalued area of study that provides its learners with significant skills, vital for students learning how to become “informed, responsible and active citizens” (Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority [ACARA], 2017), able to contribute to and participate in the growth and development of society.

A popular preconception believed by the majority is that ‘Geography’ is simply the study and production of maps. Though this is not entirely incorrect, it is often an opinion people have before they are exposed to the “rich and complex discipline” (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority [QCAA], 2007).

An example of a misconception could be students’ viewing the environment as objects – ‘just trees’ or ‘just water’. As the video in this blog post explains, students often have a limited view on the environment. This view needs to be challenged, and changed to one that includes students’ relationships with the environment, and therefore include an “element of stewardship, and environmental responsibility” (YouTube, 2013).

Teachers could challenge students’ misconceptions of environment by focussing on student’s ‘personal geography’, that is, their individual experiences with the environment. An example of this might include a student’s experience with litter, or recycling in the school. This real-world context provides students with the opportunity to make connections, from a local to a global scale.

It is important for teachers to know their students’ misconceptions, as it is a starting point for their teaching; ascertaining prior knowledge – what do my students already know, or think they know? Students are not the only ones with misconceptions and preconceptions. Teacher mis/preconceptions can also hinder academic achievement and teacher success (Engleman & Huntoon, 2011). Therefore, it is just as important that teachers address their prejudices, especially before teaching the content to their students.

In Ferrero’s ‘The Humanities, Why Such a Hard Sell?’ article, he talks about the three broad purposes of schooling: personal, economic and civic (2011). He explains how civic and personal aspects of schooling, which are largely the focus in the Humanities, are seen as less important, afterthoughts and by-products of the economic. This is a concern for the value of the humanities, as gaining credentials that are linked to employability overpower the importance of the broad exposure to the world that areas within the humanities, such as Geography, provide. Interest is then lost in those subjects “that cannot justify themselves in economic or credentialist terms” (2011). Ironically, the skills formed within an area of study like Geography, promotes analytical and decision-making processes, and effective research and communication skills through its inquiry model (QCAA, 2007), fundamental to those skills required in the workforce. An example of this is how Geography teaches skills such as planning and organising through “collecting, analysing and organising information” (Department of Education and Training, 2017), an essential life skill and key competency sought by employers. This affirms the contested opinion that the humanities, an undervalued area, hold exponential value.

Through studying Geography, and other areas within the humanities, both teachers and students are empowered to become aware of, and reassess their judgements and prejudices. The lessons, skills and knowledge learnt in the humanities, enhance our lives in a variety of ways, preparing us for the role of a citizen in the 21st Century.


Photo by Pixabay on Google Images


Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority [ACARA]. (2017). Home / F-10 Curriculum / Humanities and Social Sciences / Geography / Aims. Retrieved August 16, 2017, from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/humanities-and-social-sciences/geography/aims/.

Department of Education and Training. (2017). Australian Core Skills Framework. Retrieved August 12, 2017, from https://www.education.gov.au/australian-core-skills-framework.

Engleman C., Huntoon, J. (2011). Improving Student Learning by Addressing Misconceptions. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2011EO500001/epdf.

Ferrero, D. (2011). The Humanities – Why Such a Hard Sell? Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=eafc6805-917a-4cc4-8e00-dd0f58e8f7f6%40sessionmgr103.

National Geographic. (2017). What is Geography? Retrieved August 9, 2017, from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/education/what-is-geography/.

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority [QCAA]. (2007). Senior Syllabus: Geography. Retrieved August 11, 2017, from https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/downloads/senior/snr_geography_07_syll.pdf.

YouTube. (2013). Student’s Misconceptions in Geography. Retrieved August 12, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPBqDFuyjuk.