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Teaching Geography And History In Primary School Education Essay

This essay will show an understanding of the subjects geography and history and the links between them. It will then look at the implications of these links for both the teacher and school curriculum. My own examples from school and other’s experiences will be used throughout the essay to highlight the links and implications discussed.

Turner-Bisset (2005) explains that history is a reconstruction of the past using evidence. She argues that evidence enables individuals to prove things, but if there is no evidence then individuals can hypothesise and use other’s understanding to form interpretations. Fines and Nichol (1997) define history as a process and teachers need to create activities whereby children can act as historians exploring both primary and secondary sources. Like with all National Curriculum (1999) subjects, history in key stages one and two is broken down into knowledge, skills and understanding. The Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) (1999) highlight that history is an important subject because it allows children to consider how the past affects the present world in which they live. Moreover, it enables children to look at how societies in the past were organised and what they were like. They argue through studying the past children begin to develop an awareness of chronology, diversity and how their actions can potentially affect others.

When considering the subject of geography Scoffham (2004) highlights that geography involves making sense of the world, looking at how it is inter-related and the ways in which it may change. The DfEE (1999) in the ‘Importance of Geography’ statement confirm that geography allows children to come across new cultures and places whilst developing problem-solving and investigative skills which will equip them for everyday life. Moreover, Scoffham (2004) points out that geography is a subject which promotes a sense of curiosity, but encourages children to develop a sense of responsibility about the world. The National Curriculum (1999) emphasises that in geography children should be taught to use geographical skills when developing their knowledge and understanding. Within the National Curriculum (1999) it is expected that children at key stages one and two acquire knowledge and understanding into places, patterns and processes, environment change and sustainable development. This is further emphasised by Catling and Willy (2009) who argues geography is a “living and topical discipline” (p.15) with a focus on both people and places.

Martin (2002a) argues that despite geography and history being two distinct subjects in the National Curriculum (1999), it is useful to look at the subject statements in the National Curriculum (1999) because there are clear links between the two subjects. One such link she highlights is that history involves children finding evidence and drawing conclusions and similarly geography involves answering questions whilst looking at things from different viewpoints. Moreover, Knight (1993) argues that although geography and history can be viewed separately, they also share common ground because they are both human subjects and “share many ways of working” (p.102).

Hoodless et al (2008) argue that children learn holistically and so cross-curricular learning has a positive impact on children’s learning. Similarly Hayes (2010) argues that cross-curricular teaching can improve children’s learning, however children need to be made aware of the links that exist between subjects. Kerry (2011) argues that cross-curricular teaching is important to provide children with the skills for living in a rapidly changing world. The idea of cross-curricular teaching and learning has been evident in recent reviews. Alexander (2009) in the Cambridge Primary Review suggests that a curriculum based upon eight domains of knowledge, skill and enquiry is advantageous. It is interesting to see that geography and history are grouped together as the “Place and Time” (p.272) domain.

Martin (2002a) emphasises the connections between geography and history and confirms there are links between both subjects in terms of skills, knowledge and understanding, key concepts and values and attitudes which will now be explored further. During school experience I was able to explore the links between history and geography knowledge and understanding. In key stage two we looked at ancient Greece which is an expectation of the history National Curriculum (1999) which states children should undertake a European history study. Initially we looked at the geography of Greece which links to the knowledge and understanding of places 3.a/b/c in the geography National Curriculum (1999). We looked at photographs and maps of the islands, hilly terrain and coastal regions and used this geographical understanding to explain how these geographical features enabled city states to develop. It was vital that we looked at ancient Greece from a geographical perspective because this supported the children’s historical understanding of the city states in ancient Greece. This is supported by Davies and Redmond (1998) who argue that history permeates other subjects and so it cannot be taught exclusively to children if they are to develop a full understanding of history.

Catling (2006) argues that the connections between geography and history are deep and local area studies involve children developing a sense of place within the community whilst considering how the past has had an impact on what the area is like today. Moreover, she explains that when teachers plan local locality studies they should ensure there are elements of both subjects because geography incorporates a historical dimension and “there is a geographical element of an area’s past” (p.14). Martin (2002a) points out that geography and history share similar skills and the skill of enquiry is relevant in both subjects. This is evident in the National Curriculum (1999) whereby both subjects have a section on enquiry; geographical enquiry 1.a/b/c/d/e and historical enquiry 4.a/b whereby children are required to ask and answer questions, use sources and make interpretations.

As part of the humanities course I undertook a locality study of the local area and this incorporated the geographical and historical skill of enquiry. When planning the enquiry project I used enquiry questions, some focussing on the geographical aspect such as ‘what is this place like today?’ but also historical questions including ‘what was this place like in…?’. I carried out fieldwork which focussed on the present and used a range of sources such as directories to find out what it was like in the past. Similarly, Blyth and Krause (1999) suggest teachers can plan a range of enquiry questions which can be used in cross-curricular geography and history local locality studies. These questions incorporate a geography and history element because they focus on both the then and now.

Moreover, Catling (2006) suggests that a local locality study not only links the geographical and historical skills of enquiry but enables links to be drawn between the values and attitudes of the subjects. Catling (2006) explains that a local locality study can enable children to “develop the capacity to make informed judgements and the desire to contribute to a just society” (p.14). The idea of attitudes and values is also considered by the DfEE (1999) who argue that history can promote education for sustainable development. They argue through studying history children develop an awareness of how past actions and events have affected society today and this links to a child’s geographical awareness of sustainable development, because children need to develop values and attitudes to ensure the world is sustainable for future generations.

Cooper (2000) points out that history can be integrated with the teaching of geography through carrying out map work which develops both historical understanding and map work skills. Similarly, Boulton (1991) argues that the past can be recreated through the use of maps and children should have the opportunity to explore old maps when learning about places. It is a National Curriculum (1999) expectation for geography that when developing geographical skills, children should have the opportunity to use maps and globes (geographical enquiry and skills 2.c). From my experience of undertaking the enquiry project I was able to look at maps of the area from a given time period and using map skills I was able to identify key features of the time and contrast this with present day maps to identify changes. Turner-Bisset (2005) supports this arguing that comparing a past map with a present day map allows children to examine change and continuity. Moreover, Turner-Bisset (2005) highlights that maps provide a wealth of opportunities for discovering things from the past. One such example she suggests is looking at the areas in which the Anglo-Saxons settled by examining place names on maps and recognising their Anglo-Saxon roots.

Knight (1993) and Martin (2002a) argue that when integrating geography and history, there are links between the concepts of the subjects including change and continuity, similarity and difference and cause and effect. The concept of similarity and difference is further emphasised by Scoffham (2004). He points out that when working on local area study there should be opportunities for children to compare the locality with the past. He argues this enables children to develop an understanding of the ways in which it is similar and different and to offer reasons for changes. Apart from the concept of similarity and change being evident in a local area study, Martin (2002a) argues the concept of similarity and difference is further evident in both geography and history. She explains this concept is apparent in geography when comparing two localities (knowledge and understanding of places 2.f) and also in history when comparing historical periods, events and people (knowledge and understanding of events, people and changes in the past 2.d). A further concept which Martin (2002a) highlights can be found in both subjects is the concept of hierarchy. I have seen teachers addressing the concept of hierarchy through looking at society during the Tudor period. However, Martin (2002a) points out that the concept of hierarchy is also applicable in geography when looking at places and their relationships with one another.

Although there are opportunities for geography and history to be integrated there are implications that I must be aware of. Kerry (2011) argues that for cross-curricular work to be successful there needs to be meaningful links between the subjects in order to make the learning relevant for the children. Therefore, he argues that within a lesson there needs to be learning objectives which link to both subjects and opportunities for children to develop transferable skills. Hayes (2010) explains that this ensures that the links between the subjects are not superficial and are considered and planned to enhance learning in both subjects. On school experience when looking at Indian village within geography the teacher thought it would be worthwhile to look at the Indus Valley within history. This was a meaningful link because the children were made aware of the historical context of the country.

Knight (2003) argues that integrating subjects can be demanding and teachers need to be secure in their own subject knowledge to be able to do this successfully, however he points out that humanities is an area teachers have less confidence in teaching. Similarly, Cooper (2000) argues that there needs to be opportunities within school for teachers to share their subject expertise with other teachers. However, from my experience no staff meetings have been allocated to either geography and history and when staff meetings focussed on curriculum areas, it was always English and mathematics which took priority. Moreover, Kinght (2003) highlights that a further problem when integrating subjects is there are not always resources available to support the learning, he argues this is the case when finding resources to support local area studies. The lack of resources available is further emphasised by Blyth and Krause (1995) who argue that because local areas are unique, schools have to create their own resources for local area studies. They argue this puts great pressure onto teachers, however they do acknowledge that once these resources has been created they can be shared in school.

The implications of linking geography and history extend to the school curriculum. Turner-Bisset (2000) argues integration of subjects can be beneficial for schools when trying to deliver the overloaded National Curriculum (1999) and she argues this can be achieved through recognising connections between subjects and drawing upon these links in teaching. On my first school experience the subjects were not taught in a cross-curricular way and each subject had an allocated time slot. Despite efforts to address all subjects, some foundation subjects were not taught due to lack of time. In contrast, my final school placement adopted a cross-curricular approach which meant humanities was covered on a weekly basis ensuring continuity in the children’s learning whilst allowing the children to view the geography and history in a relevant way.

Knight (1993) states that “Successful integration is a whole-school, not a one-teacher, affair” (p.106) whereby there should be organisation and cohesion within the humanities curriculum. O’Hara and O’Hara (2005) argue this can be achieved through effective planning which involves a whole school approach to looking at curriculum content that needs to be covered. They highlight that when long term planning is undertaken, usually by the subject co-ordinator, cross-curricular links should be considered and planned for and there needs to be explicit reference to these links in the long term plans. Halocha (1998) argues that geography and history co-ordinators should take an active role exploring how their subject can be integrated with other subjects. He argues this then needs to be made available in long term plans which not only detail cross-curricular links but also the progression in terms of children’s learning.

Halocha (1998) argues that it is the responsibility of the geography/history co-ordinator to explore how their subject can be integrated with other subjects and include this in long term plans.

From my experience, the use of long term plans ensure there is continuity between key stages whereby all teachers in the school know what they are expected to cover in their subsequent short term plans

Furthermore, Scoffham (2004) argues that long term planning is important

and other subjects including history, whilst ensuring a balanced curriculum is delivered.

because it allows teachers to recognise the links between geography and history in terms of the QCA schemes of work. He argues that careful consideration needs to be given to the specific units which could enhance learning in both geography and history. However, from my experience these links cannot be identified spontaneously, they need careful planning in order for the integration of subjects to work well. This worked well in school when a whole school curriculum map

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