Question time

20th June 2003 at 01:00
Liz Taylor welcomes a new approach to enquiry learning

Learning through enquiry: Making sense of geography in the key stage 3 classroom. By Margaret Roberts Geographical Association pound;19.95.

Margaret Roberts's vision is for well-conceived enquiry learning to be at the heart of everything we do in the geography classroom - so her book is broad in scope. She starts by focusing on what enquiry learning is and why it's important, including a well-informed discussion of how children learn and an excellent section on framing questions. A new framework for learning through geographical enquiry is presented, which looks set to encourage creativity and rigour. There is lots to think about here. The book also includes what is probably the best discussion of literacy in geographical learning currently available, and gives some practical numeracy guidance.

The various categories of geographical enquiry (such as values, survey, personal geographies, representation of place) are covered, including many practical teaching strategies (Chinese whispers, layers of meaning, consequences framework etc) and some extended exemplars (highlights include an active numbers activity about apartheid in South Africa and affective mapping around the school).

This is a substantial and scholarly, yet very accessible book. It combines the authenticity of practical classroom ideas developed by teachers with the authority of a wide range of research findings - there are very few of the unsubstantiated generalisations which litter many books for teachers.

These characteristics are possible because of the author's considerable experience as a researcher and her work with geography teachers and trainees. Her belief in pupils, in teachers and in geography shines through. Some parts of the book could be applied off-the-peg, but there is also a strong encouragement to use professional judgement and to take ownership of the ideas, adapting them to suit the interests and needs of a particular class.

There will be something here of use and interest to all geography teachers.

Liz Taylor is Lecturer in Geographical Education at Cambridge University

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