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Geography - Test case scenario

With the right assessment, the new curriculum makes measuring progress a breeze, says David Gardner

Geography makes a major contribution to developing successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens. However, as the new geography curriculum develops in secondary schools, how can you be sure that it has had a positive impact on your pupils?

The new programme of study places greater emphasis on the key concepts that underpin geography, and encourages teachers and learners to focus on placing learning in context. The new curriculum aims can be used as a starting point.

Assessment is at the heart of an effective curriculum. It means we can recognise achievement and make progress, and also allows teachers to shape and adapt their teaching to individual needs and aspirations.

Over the past year, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has been working with schools and partners to develop ways of assessing pupils that put them at the heart of the process.

This can be achieved using the Assessing Pupils' Progress (APP) materials, which are being developed by the QCA. APP has been successfully used in reading, writing, maths, science and ICT. It is being developed for the foundation subjects at key stage 3. The aim is to provide a detailed picture of learners' strengths and areas for improvement, to give a reliable and consistent link to national standards, and contribute to productive discussions between teachers, pupils and parents. The progress tools for teachers include:

- The APP handbook to help teachers use the materials and implement the approach.

- Assessment guidelines for assessing pupils' work related to curriculum levels.

- Standards files, which are annotated collections of pupils' day-to-day work that exemplify national standards at different levels. These help teachers to reach consistent judgments about curriculum levels.

- The QCA is developing APP materials in conjunction with geography subject specialists, including the Geographical Association and Royal Geographical Society, as well as teachers.

The finished guidelines and handbooks will be trialled in schools, and any feedback will help refine the materials.

Finally, the QCA is working with schools to exemplify standards in the curriculum through examples of pupils' work and other evidence of their achievement.

Some of these materials will be included in the standards files for APP, which will be available to all schools on the QCA website during 2010

David Gardner is a curriculum adviser at the QCA.

The Geographical Association will publish Assessing Your Key Stage 3 Geography Curriculum in April. The book anticipates and helps prepare for the implementation of APP in geography.

Assessing Pupils' Progress: Assessment at the heart of teaching and learning sets out the principles of the APP approach and is available at

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