How Differences of Opinion Influence Students’ Capacity to Think Geographically

By Rose Buchanek.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Currently, the Australian Government is working towards the development and implementation of a national geography curriculum for Australian Schools. A common response to the question of what geography education is based upon is ‘maps’ (Sorenson, 2009). Geography teachers, curriculum designers and educational researchers alike face the battle of broadening the perception of geography education beyond this view (Sorenson, 2009; Maude, 2009; McInerney, Berg, Hutchinson, Maude & Sorenson, 2009). The Shape of the National Curriculum for Geography (Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority 2011, p8) states that the new curriculum will “develop students’ broader ability to think critically about contemporary events”. This new direction demonstrates a focus in on students’ capacity to ‘think geographically’ (Jackson 2006).

This study engages with this new curriculum direction and explores the influence of an approach to group learning pedagogy based around students’ differences of opinion on students’ capacity to think geographically. A sample of 43 Year 9 Geography students participated in a two week learning sequence investigating the impacts of large scale earthquakes. This paper communicates the findings from a comparative case study analysis of two student group conversations of different group types. According to the results of this study, organising students into groups around their differences of opinion encourages students to engage in and sustain higher levels of geographical thinking.

Keywords: Geography Education, Group Learning, Student Conversation, Thinking Skills

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp.141-156. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.318MB).

Rose Buchanek

PhD Candidate, School of Education, Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Rose is in the final stages of her PhD study investigating the influence of differences of opinion on the types of communication used by students during group learning activities. She is involved in several Humanities-based education units at Deakin University, including “Humanities Teaching Method for Secondary School” and “Learning Beyond the Classroom: Learning in the Community.” Prior to joining Deakin and pursuing her study, Rose taught at a secondary school in Melbourne teaching English, History and Geography across all year levels from 7-12. As a teacher and researcher, Rose is passionate about creating student-centred learning opportunities which facilitate higher order thinking for her students.


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