Subject Research Programme 2004-05 (Secondary)
de Ferrers Specialist Technology College
This report is based on findings made during a day spent with the geography department; it draws
upon evidence from observations of four Key Stage 3 lessons, discussions with pupils, analysis of
pupils’ work, discussions with staff and examination of departmental documentation. The focus of
the visit was the use of Thinking Skills in Geography and other aspects of the Key Stage 3
Foundations Subjects Strategy.
What works well, and why?
There is a well organised, detailed departmental Scheme for Learning, with opportunities for
Thinking Skills activities built into all appropriate areas, to promote challenge and engagement.
Teachers are all familiar with Thinking Skills strategies and are adept at adapting existing materials
to suit their own teaching.
Subject standards (attainment and progress)
In 2004, at the end of KS3 74% pupils were at level 5 or above, which is broadly in line with the
Quality of teaching within the subject
Some very good and good lessons were observed and all lessons were at least satisfactory.
Characteristics of the very good and good lessons included a variety of teaching styles in the
lesson, which maintain a good pace and take into account the preferred learning styles of pupils;
other characteristics were the teachers’ good questioning skills, assessment for learning principles
being put into practice, the teacher challenging the pupils and extending their thinking.
In one very good lesson the following features were evident:
The pace of the lesson was excellent; time was used very effectively; pupils were kept busy all the
time; there was no time for slack!
Humour was used to good effect; teacher knows the pupils well and has a very good relationship
with them; she was sensitive to their needs and attitudes and respects and values their opinions;
The teacher has high expectations of pupils and insists on high standards;
Good questioning skills by the teacher, helps pupils to think their answers through and to make
Pointing to future learning and to a forthcoming assessment task on weather so pupils know what
the next stage of their learning is;
Thorough lesson planning which included a variety of teaching and learning styles; well organised
classroom and well prepared good resources;
Good subject knowledge and drawing very successfully on topical events;
Calm yet authoritative teaching, the teacher has a range of very good behaviour management
strategies to get pupils’ attention.
In another very good lesson given by a very enthusiastic and energetic geography teacher, who
utilised a variety of teaching and learning styles to good effect.
The lesson was very well planned and constructed following the 3 part lesson format, with all the
elements skilfully linked.
There was a good mix of teacher exposition, pupils working in groups, whole class and small group
discussion and writing tasks.
Many aspects of the KS3 Strategy were very evident, such as Thinking Skills, 3 part lesson
structure, Assessment for Learning, good questioning, literacy (writing frame) and teacher
Thinking Skills used well during this lesson were a card sort / classification activity and “Most likely
to …” with a good attempt to debrief the activity and for pupils to talk about how they approached it.
The room was well prepared and organised before the lesson; laptop and projector were set up;
maps and other resources were on tables.
A very effective strategy was used to organise pupils into groups; pupils were given a number on
entry to the room, they sit at the table with that number on; this minimised fuss about who was
sitting where! Pupils are given something to do during the register, so were gainfully occupied.
Teacher has high expectations of the pupils which he communicates very clearly to them.
The pace is set well – “You have 15 seconds left” and “I’m going to stop you at 5 past” sets
challenge and gives pupils structure to the activity.
The lesson made reference to local and topical examples to exemplify geographical models and
Resources created by the teacher were of high quality and avoidance of over reliance on text
books is to be encouraged.
Again, in another well planned lesson with well prepared resources, it was good that there was not
an over reliance on text books. In this lesson the teacher knows the pupils well and had good
relationship with them on the whole. There were good links with Citizenship in this lesson.
In another lesson the teacher had high expectations of standards of behaviour which she shares
with the class. The lesson was very well planned, well prepared and the worksheet was well
constructed. The pupils used a Passport to the World booklet containing maps of UK, Europe and
the World, which is a good idea. Once again this lesson drew upon teachers’ own resources.
Impact on the subject of the national Key Stage 3 Strategy
The geography department became particularly interested in the use of Thinking Skills when they
were involved in the Foundation Subjects pilot of the Key Stage 3 Strategy.
Principles of the Key Stage 3 Strategy are very evident in many aspects of the department’s work.
Their use of Thinking Skills is very highly developed. Lessons follow the 3 part lesson structure
format (although generally they have two main activities in a lesson). Long, medium and short term
planning is thorough. Assessment for learning is part of normal classroom practice, for example
pupils have sheets stuck on the covers of their books – How do I become a better geographer?
and levels are written in pupil-friendly language. KWL grids are used to help pupils organise their
Development of ICT within the subject
The department find it difficult to get access to the ICT rooms to teach geography using computers.
However, good use is made of ICT to support teaching, planning and creating resources. The
specialist geography rooms would benefit from having network access, digital projectors and
possibly interactive whiteboards; the department are well placed to make good use of these
facilities to enhance teaching and learning, particularly as geography is a highly visual subject and
is enhanced by topicality . It would be ideal if there was an ICT suite available to the Humanities
Leadership and management and self review process
The Head of Department has been in post for just over two years. He is energetic and enthusiastic,
knows the department well, recognises and draws upon their strengths and is aware of the areas
needing further development. He is realistic about what has been achieved so far and what needs
to be done in the future, such as developing the KS4 Scheme for Learning along the same lines as
the one for KS3 and working on modelling and developing extended writing at KS4. The
department is justifiably proud of their new scheme of work, marking policy and mark scheme. The
department work well together and have a collaborative approach to planning and preparing
resources. Teaching and learning are always high on the agenda for departmental meetings.
Pupils’ learning is further enhanced with additional activities being offered to them, for example for
some pupils taking part in an EcoWarriors Scheme; pupils sign up or are invited to take part in
Teach Extra. The prominent Geography in the News boards promote interest in the subject and
ensure that the subject is kept fresh and topical.