It ain't what you do...

21st November 1997 at 00:00
GEOGRAPHICAL ENQUIRIES: Skills and Techniques for GCSE Geography. Garrett Nagel and Kris Spencer. Stanley Thornes Pounds 6.99. GEOGRAPHICAL TECHNIQUES. Liz Taylor. Pearson Publishing Pounds 29.

Projects and investigations now feature in most GCSE assessment requirements and the frequently unsuitable compilations of secondary data offered by some candidates suggest a need for the kind of guidance provided by Geographical Enquiries.

The book starts with rather conventional approaches to map-reading, but continues with interesting suggestions for using maps as bases for geographical descriptions and explanations, and includes references to maps other than the topographical. A separate section covers weather maps and stream hydrographs.

The most detailed and helpful sections occupy the final two-thirds of the book with clear guidelines on using graphs and statistics. Many of these would enhance A-level investigations, but they require careful use by the teacher and the text calls for guided reading and interpretation.

Investigations cover human, physical and environmental geography. And while other books cover similar ground, Geographical Enquiries lists limitations and strengths of the projects and gives examples of application. The quality of GCSE projects should certainly improve if schools adopt these approaches.

Liz Taylor's collection of techniques for investigation and analysis is loose-leaf, so teachers can copy sets for student use. While most of the skills may be familiar, the versatility of separate sheets makes them worth considering for mainly A-level work.

The sheets contain 40 techniques arranged in three broad categories - collection, presentation and analysis. Most techniques are accompanied by a sheet on applications. Teacher's notes suggest ways in which the pack can be used.

Techniques for collecting information suggest ideas for fieldwork, the drafting of questionnaires and the use of secondary sources. Methods of presentation include straightforward advice on drawing cross-sections as well as production of scattergraphs and topological maps. Analytical techniques range equally widely, from Chi-squared testing through environmental impact assessment to a consideration of attitudes and values.

The value of this pack is undoubted. Sets of sheets carefully chosen could be an admirable starting point for geographical enquiries, for individuals and for group field work and follow-up.

Colin Harris is a geography inspector and consultant

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