Shooting the Rapids

In this context, the practitioner is less like the bulldozer driver carving a way through the landscape to a pre conceived objective, more like a combination of canoeist shooting the rapids and creative artist exploring possibilities and waiting for inspiration.

(Mike Radford, 2007)

The quote above is my favourite teaching metaphor and one that I re-read regularly. It came to mind several times through this week where it really did feel like we were ‘Shooting the Rapids.’ Continue reading


Exploring the Threshold Concepts of the NZC

Our aim Friday was to explore the core concepts of the New Zealand Curriculum to start focusing on what learning needs to occur next year.

The first major point of interest to emerge was how differently each learning area is organised within the curriculum. Many learning areas were organised by concepts but others focused on skills, dispositions or a mix of the three. Nevertheless we were able to help each other understand how to extract the threshold concepts from each of the areas.

By focusing on one learning area each and extracting the concepts from the curriculum, we soon got our initial impressions of the 8 Learning Areas. Then as a group we discussed what had been gathered during the first step. At the end of these discussions we had the core of what the learning area was aiming to achieve and the threshold concepts that learners need to develop to be able to achieve that core aim.

As an example of this Social Sciences has the core concepts of Society; Issues; Active Citizenship; and Relationship between Society and the Environment. The threshold concepts to reach this core were: Economy; Environment; Organisation and Systems; Biculturalism; Place; Change; Perspectives; Continuity; Identity; Culture; Sustainability; Community; Diversity; and Social Action.

This meant we ended the week with the threshold concepts of the entire NZC up on the wall of our “Hacking Cave”

NZC Threshold Concepts

NZC Threshold Concepts

There are some clear cross-overs that were noticed during the process and next week we will get to focus in on this aspect – where are the opportunities for authentic integration?


My thinkpiece for this week’s #GeoEdChat


When looking to measure students’ conceptual progression I tend to use Building Conceptual Understandings in the Social Sciences (Ministry of Education, 2008). This publication stated five ways that teachers could identify learners’ conceptual progressions:

·         Level of their understanding and use of abstract concepts increases

·         They make connections between multiple concepts

·         They apply and transfer their understandings to more complex and distant contexts as well as to those that are familiar

·         They take responsible actions and make informed decisions that are based on their understandings

·         They begin to understand that concepts can have different interpretations

We often keep strong records of student achievement but how many of us keep data tracking students’ conceptual progress? The issue with measuring conceptual progression is that they are complex, abstract notions that are constantly shifting. So what data to collect to track this progress?

Ensuring conceptual progress may be…

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Why are concepts important?

I have been having some great discussions this week with Stephen Matthews (@srmdrummer) around teaching geographic concepts that have made me revisit my philosophy and teaching approach. This video of Sir Ken Robinson talking about subjects as disciplines provides a good example of the discussions we have had:

I believe that Geography is concerned with social issues and that geographic educators should be equipping their students to take action in society. Increasingly global issues such as climate change, globalisation, sustainability and social justice are making headlines and Geography should assist students with their understanding of these issues. Continue reading

Geographic Concepts

Step Up 4: Miami Heat (2012) Poster

To introduce my Geography classes to our key geographic concepts we have watched Step Up 4: Miami Heat (called Step Up Revolution originally) this week.

Before watching we did a concept and definition mix and match activity where the concepts and a definition were on laminated cards. Once all pairs/groups had sorted the definitions together the students wrote the concepts down in their books leaving about 3-4 lines after each one. Continue reading