The department developed an approach to building enquiry skills for the NEA through local fieldwork in Borehamwood in 2016 and then made the decision to develop this approach further at Key Stage 3. The aim was to provide a foundation for the new and unfamiliar concepts in Changing Places and seize an additional opportunity to develop skills and build progression with the stages of enquiry. The department's experience of the first year of Changing Places at A Level was that students approached the topic with some trepidation as it was a departure from the geography they had experienced at both GCSE and Key Stage 3.
The whole schools focus on 'Teaching Excellence' at HABS for the 2017-2018 academic year required us to choose an area in which to develop approaches to teaching and learning, so this provided us with the time and steer to work on our ideas.
Ashleigh McGrath, a third-year teacher and advocate of the Changing Places unit, took the lead on developing the unit of work and accompanying fieldwork for Year 8. We have eight subject specialists in the department, and the new unit also provided an opportunity for subject knowledge updates for those largely involved in teaching physical geography at A Level.
The content of the unit of work included reference to insider and outsider perspectives, endogenous and exogenous facts, meaning and representation, lived experience, and regeneration. The regeneration lessons focus on Stratford and the Olympic legacy, followed by an enquiry based on fieldwork in Watford. During 2018, Watford Town Centre has been undergoing change as part of a regeneration project. As with our Borehamwood fieldwork, one of our aims was to develop an appreciation that effective fieldwork can be undertaken in the local area, a principle that has also driven the NEA process for our current Year 13.
The practical work undertaken by Year 8 was based on 5 hypotheses linked to the concepts in our unit of work. The techniques undertaken were 8 way thinking, questionnaries on insider and outsider perspectives, land use, clone town surveys and environmental quality surveys. They also compared sense of place in Watford High Street and Cassiobury Park and used historical photographs to identify and comment on change in both locations.
The outcomes were that they boys presented and analysed their data and reached conclusions supported by their evidence that Watford is a clone town, and regeneration has improved outsider perspectives, yet had a negative impact on the perspectives of insiders.
The boys enjoyed the unit as it offered something different to the more traditional concepts and issues studied in class. The work will be refined and improved for the current academic year based on our experience; we are all in agreement that this new unit was a positive move for the department and are confident that we will see longer term benefits with enquiry skills and conceptual understanding.
Susan Edwards, Head of Geography
The Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School