2. Fostering geographical inquiry and fieldwork

2.1 Encourage students to carry out a range of geographical inquiries, from structured to more open-ended and active investigations, from prearranged problem-solving and discovery to negotiated inquiry. Through these inquiries, students identify topics, generate questions, evaluate the quality of evidence, process and analyse data, select presentation methods to communicate the research findings effectively, think creatively about geographical issues, propose individual or group action in response to the research findings and, where appropriate, take such action.

Focus question:
  • How can inquiry-based teaching ensure that students learn worthwhile and relevant content?
Further questions:
  • What are the two best examples of geographical inquiry that you have used in your classroom practice?
  • What time do you allocate to develop inquiry learning in your geography classroom? Why?
Samples of practice

(a) Backdrop:
In this post-lesson interview, the teacher explains why the active investigation that students experience and undertake during fieldwork assists classroom learning. How does the teacher justify the inclusion of fieldwork for this year 9 class?

play video iconClick here to view this video sample

(b) Backdrop:
In this sample the teacher explains, amongst other lesson features, the characteristics of the research that students will be undertaking when predicting volcanoes and earthquakes – including designing their own research project and formulating and asking their own questions. To what extent does he demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the process of geographical inquiry?

pdf icon Sample 11 GEOG 18 [1. Lesson summary Key lesson events (transcript) 00:38:50 – 00:44:52]

Further links and resources

Description of the importance of geographical inquiry:
“The process of geographical inquiry is identified as pivotal to developing geographical understanding. The most recent Australian research…includes a critical discussion about the stages of geographical inquiry and the questions geographers ask when searching for understanding and explanation of the place, process or phenomena that they study. What makes geographical inquiry distinct are the types of questions that are asked in geographic investigations. These flow from the key concepts and the lens applied to the intersection of these concepts.”
Sorensen, L. (2009) Literature Review - for the National Geography Curriculum. Geographical Education 22: 13

“A comprehensive review of United Kingdom schools concluded that the most effective geography departments were those which emphasised the inquiry method, fieldwork and group work, and addressed relevant and topical issues.”
Kriewaldt, J.& Hutchinson, N. (2009) Improving Understanding of Accomplished Teaching in School Geography Through and Examination of Learners’ Perspectives. Geographical Education 22: 29

See also:

Clifford, N., Holloway, S., Rice, S. & Valentine, G. (Eds.) (2009) Key concepts in geography. (2nd Edition) London: Sage

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education [HMI] (2005). The annual report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education [HMI] 2004/05: Geography in secondary schools
For further information go to:
(Accessed May 2009)

Kriewaldt, J. (2006) The key role of metacognition in an inquiry-based geography curriculum. Geographical Education 19: 24-33

1. Knowing geography and geography curriculum
Accomplished geography teachers: 
2. Fostering geographical inquiry and fieldwork
Accomplished geography teachers:
3. Developing geographical thinking and communication
Accomplished geography teachers:
4. Understanding students and their communities
Accomplished geography teachers:
5. Establishing a safe, supportive and intellectually challenging learning environment

Accomplished geography teachers:

6. Understanding geography teaching – pedagogical practices
Accomplished geography teachers:
7. Planning, assessing and reporting

Accomplished geography teachers:

8. Progressing professional growth and development

Accomplished geography teachers:

9. Learning and working collegially

Accomplished geography teachers: