In an impressive list of Geographical Association publications, The Geography Teachers' Handbook must take pride of place. There can be no doubt about its relevance; you might be surprised to find it's also a very good read.
The handbook aims to explore "the considerable freedom which national curriculum regulations give teachers to plan courses and construct lessons", but it also looks beyond those regulations to re-state the wider educational possibilities of modern geography.
It has two functions. First as a comprehensive reference manual for experienced teachers; second as a source of practical help on lesson planning and methods of teaching and learning for those new to the profession.
The editors have skilfully interwoven the work of 33 contributors, nine of whom appeared in the original handbook, published in 1986. The bulk of the book relates to the early and middle years of secondary school, but there are also chapters on primary, post-16, teacher training, and job opportunities.
Some of the most recent changes are the subject of separate chapters, for example the revised GCSE syllabuses, and recently revised OFSTED guidelines. A chapter is devoted to IT, although this theme permeates the whole book. Most chapters conclude with a list of references and suggestions for further reading.
The design is attractive and enables the user to find topics quickly. The colour photographs are very good, but less successful two-tone photographs give a rather dated appearance in places.
The opening section considers issues of general concern to all teachers: gender, multi-ethnicity and cross-curricular themes. It also looks at recent and likely changes in geography. Planning courses and lessons is followed by a section on differentiation and the general development of skills, perhaps the most difficult issues facing departments. The use of atlases, globes, Ordnance Survey maps, simulations, statistics, and fieldwork, are then dealt with, culminating in a crucial chapter on teaching about distant places.
A succinct summary of assessment at key stage 3, GCSE, and post-16 levels is followed by one of the most interesting sections in the book which analyses the use of resources. Here the opening chapter properly concludes "Teaching and learning geography is in the process of change; the increasing range of resources is one of the forces that is enabling that change to take place. " The chapter on televisual resources is particularly enlightening and could provide a very useful basis for departmental discussions.
Heads of department will undoubtedly make a beeline for the section on key management issues, particularly if they are awaiting an OFSTED inspection. The book concludes with a survey of the post-16 situation, teacher education and training and career opportunities.
Like its predecessor, the new handbook deserves a place in every department library.