Monday, March 20, 2017

Let's talk theory

Related sites to Humsteach blog

Australian Curriculum Portal
DECD Learning Resources for Australian Curriculum
DECD Achievement Standards Charts 
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Geography Teachers Association of South Australia
History Teachers Association of South Australia
History Teachers Association of Australia 

Email contact:    

Let's talk theory for a while

It is important  in your rationale for your lesson plan and unit plan that you refer to learning theories. I know you have done a lot on learning theories during your studies but I thought it was worth reminding you about the importance of referencing them when you are designing the learning for students

A site too check out about learning theories is at

In the Australian Curriculum you will see many learning theories in action via the inquiry model used in HaSS


The philosophy about learning, that proposes learners need to build their own understanding of new ideas, has been labelled constructivism.

 Blooms taxonomy

Some other learning theories to refer to in HaSS:

·        Multiple Intelligences

·        Systems thinking

·        Experiential learning

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Understanding play is critical to understanding learning

YouTube on connecting and creativity

Creative ideas from A to Z

Using games in humanities

"Understanding play is critical to understanding learning."
"Play is the basis for cultivating imagination and innovation."
Seely and Brown

So what about this play thing? For many educators play is recognized as a critical tool for children. They consider that through play they come to understand, experience, and know the world. However as we get older (and the teaching force fits into this category), play is seen as unimportant, trivial, or as a means of relaxation and learning switches to something you do in school where now you are taught.

“What we fail to fully grasp is that play is the way that children manage new, unexpected and changing conditions, exactly the situation we now all face in the fast-paced world of the 21st century. Play is more than a tool to manage change; it allows us to make new things familiar, to perfect new skills, to experiment with moves and crucially to embrace change —a key disposition for succeeding in the 21st century.”

Seely and Brown believe play as part of a new culture of learning does the above in four ways:
1) By thinking about the problem as a crisis in learning rather than teaching
2) By looking at the incredible power of new cultures of learning that are happening already and understanding what makes them successful
3) By tapping new resources: peer to peer learning, amplified by the power of the collective, which favors things like questing dispositions over transfer models of education and embraces play as a modality of exploration, experimentation, and engagement.
4) By understanding how to optimize the resources (and freedom) of large networks, while at the same time affording personal and individual agency constrained within a problem space created by a bounded learning environment.
Play provides freedom to act in new ways which are different from "everyday life" within a set of rules that constrain that freedom. Think of any game a kid creates of make-believe. It is both fantasy and it has to have rules (which may be arbitrary and even ridiculous), but what it results in is a world of imagination and something entirely new and innovative.

In short, play cultivates imagination and innovation, two capacities critical for individuals to function and be successful in the 21st Century.

Such consideration of play brings me to the idea of games and game-type activities (simulations, quizzes, puzzles etc) in the geography classroom. Here is just a selection of free game type activities/resources available on-line which could and in the view of Seely and Brown should be embraced by the geography classroom.

Fun is OK!

Test your knowledge of world geography

Games for Change curates digital and non-digital games that engage contemporary social issues in a meaningful way. These games have been created by cross-disciplinary teams from around the world.

Ideas to inspire: Online Geography Gaming: This site contains links and background to hundreds of online games and simulations for use in the geography classroom. The site also has ideas and links to ICT and on-line collaboration tools. An amazing one-stop shop for teachers to incorporate games and fun into the classroom for students to learn.

Here is a selection from the excellent Ideas to inspire site (28 out of the 102 profiled on the site)


Stop disasters

3rd World farmer

Sim sweatshop

Darfur is dying

McDonalds game

My Sus House

My abodo

Flood Sim

Google Flight Sim

Sporcle: Place based games

Place games and quizzes

Classic Sim City

Oil and extraction

Free poverty

Global rich

Trans Aid: transport issues and aid

Refugees: Against all odds

Climate change Pentathlon

Food force: Humanitarian food game

*Race against global poverty

Climate challenge

Earthquake: make a quake

Urban plan

*Environmental quiz game


Virtual volcano

Map Zone games

Monday, March 13, 2017

No easy task developing rich inquiry questions

Related sites to Humsteach blog

Australian Curriculum Portal
DECD Learning Resources for Australian Curriculum
DECD Achievement Standards Charts 
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Geography Teachers Association of South Australia
History Teachers Association of South Australia
History Teachers Association of Australia 

Email contact:    

This post explores the nature of inquiry questions in the Australian Curriculum: HaSS.

 “The purpose of an inquiry question is more important than its form. They are about meaning-making and not knowledge acquisition.”  Wiggins and McTighe

A contentious aspect of the development of the Australian Curriculum: HaSS was the need and desirability of developing inquiry questions throughout the F-10 curriculum. Over the years of writing the curriculum, they have been in, then out, then in and then … etc.  The reason for this vacillation lies firstly in the conflicting views over the inquiry questions. One argument against them is that they will unnecessarily guide the approach (encourage a teacher directed approach) to the curriculum and take away the opportunity for students to develop their own inquiry questions. On the other hand, some have thought that the inquiry type questions are necessary because they will provide a source of inspiration for teachers to develop high quality geographical inquiry which may be beyond students in the first instance and be required to guide the ‘non-geographer’ geography teacher. The other reason for the in and out scenario for the inquiry questions is that it is extremely hard to develop high quality questions which focus on conceptual understandings rather than just finding answers to content.

What then is being said about developing high quality inquiry questions? To answer this question we need to go directly to the learning design and backward planning gurus of Wiggins and McTighue. 

The following thoughts have been inspired by their work, my own experience in schools and as a curriculum writer in developing ‘questions beyond the worksheet’. It is certainly worth having a good read of Wiggns and McTighue on learning design and consider the need to start with the end in mind. In the case of the Australian Curriculum: HaSS, that end in my view should be the Achievement Standards.  

In developing the Inquiry questions for the year levels of the curriculum the question should be crafted to:
·   inquire into the big ideas and understandings of the year level

·    provoke discussion as an open question (never to be a closed question inviting a yes/no response)

·    limit reference to specific content. To do so one needs to blur their eyes to the content. And focus on the learning/assessment requirements (achievement standards in the Australian Curriculum).

·   involve a degree of contestability – making balanced judgements based on content studied

·    make connections to prior learning and possible future connections in the curriculum narrative.

·    stimulate and focus thinking,

·    not require prescriptive answers.

·    provide opportunities to open up inquiry with multiple pathways of thought

·    not be a checklist of the facts to learn.

·    enable the students to extend the question and in turn own the inquiry.

·    focus on meaning-making and understanding and not the recall of facts

·    the question should raise further questions – not just an answer.

·    be rhetorical to promote thinking.

·    3-4 fundamental understanding questions per unit.

·    accessible in terms of language to students and the ‘non-geographer’ teacher.

·   recognisable in the Content Descriptions and Achievement Standards of the curriculum.

·   identify the relevant concepts for the unit in the questions.

·   be conceptual and abstract requiring the teacher to model and develop contexts to demonstrate – not teach them through content questions.

In essence the questions developed must be crafted so that the teacher can understand them – hence these questions are primarily focussed on the teacher to design their program.

To help with developing ‘more than worksheets’ questions I have gathered this list of lead-in phrases – they may serve to steer us away from the ‘teacherly’ questions as Wiggins and McTighe call them.

To what extent…?
What makes …?
How can ...?
When is it …?
Why should …?
Why would …?
How does …?
How do you know …?
How is …?
What do …?
When should …?
When is …?
How would …?
What should …?
How much does …?
Is there a …?
How well …?
In what ways might …?
What would happen if …?
Under what conditions …?
On balance …?
Why …?
Why would one say that …?
Why do you think that …?
How would you respond …?
Who is …?
Evaluate …?
How accurate is the …?
How well can …?
When do you …?

Having said all that, it is a huge challenge to develop high quality inquiry questions based on these premises. When writing the questions one often falls back into old habits of focussing on the content of the curriculum, rather than the understandings based on the concepts. I defy anyone to create excellent question without trialing them with teachers and students as they become familiar with the curriculum content. Hopefully with trial and error, teachers and students will develop questions that actually challenge, stimulate and draw out the concepts and understandings of the HaSS curriculum.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

AC HaSS primary workshop on 11 March

PowerPoint from the 11 March workshop

Some useful HaSS links

AC History Units
DECD Learning Resources for Australian Curriculum
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Geography Teachers Association of South Australia
History Teachers Association of South Australia
History Teachers Association of Australia
Legal Education Teachers Association SA (LETASA)
Business Educators Australia

Email contact:

* The Australian Curriculum Portal

A selection of HASS resources and links

 Being a Citizen: a resource for Civics and Citizenship programming

 South Australian Parliament teaching resources

* The role of juries eBook (DECD Outreach Education)

* Suffragettes site (DECD Outreach Education)

Discovering Democracy resources 

* Parliamentary Education Office resources

AC History Units: the resource from HTAA and Education Services Australia (ESA) to support the Australian Curriculum: History

* DECD Australian Curriculum: HASS resources 

The DECD "Making the Australian Curriculum work for us' resource has been designed  to support the teaching and learning of the Australian Curriculum: HASS.

As you can see below the resource to date includes a creative animation, broadsheets on the curriculum, sound bites and 'talking heads'.

The Story of the learning areas animation. An excellent animation on 'What is Geography for'

The HaSS curriculum, year by year, all on one page in the Learning Area Explorer.

Achievement Standards Charts and activities (soon to be updated for HaSS F-7)

* The RSLSA Virtual War Memorial

A great resource for commemoration activities, historical research and work on Australian identity in the Civics and Citizenship curriculum.

* Changing Worlds: The South Australian Story (DECD Outreach Education resource)

* South Australian Aboriginal Cultural Studies Curriculum
Click on ACS Aboriginal Cultural Studies course and then in the next screen,
enter password in reverse as mentioned.

* DECD Outreach Education

Some other useful DECD Outreach Education resources for the teaching of HaSS

Muslim Cameleers website: (South Australian Museum)

Curator’s Table: German migrants experiences in Australia during World War I web based resource:

iPad inquiry trails to be undertaken on site at the South Australian Maritime Museum:

Monday, March 6, 2017

The inquiry spectrum

The questions are: 

On the ‘teller’/Inquiry spectrum I am …

To be successful Inquiry needs to be ...

What are the stages of Inquiry in the Australian Curriculum: HaSS?

What are the advantages for learning of the Inquiry approach?

What are some of the issues to keep in mind when planning an inquiry approach?

I think there is far too much emphasis on inquiry approaches in the classroom

Inquiry does not necessarily improve learning.

Why can it be said that Inquiry has the potential to be abused in the classroom.

Teacher support for inquiry

In viewing numerous classroom scenarios on inquiry, we see the principle of inductive reasoning at the centre of the teacher’s approach. Students begin with a source – a cup or a dress and their thinking and reasoning is guided to begin firstly with the particular and then branching out to the more general.

Inductive reasoning means restricting oneself to sources and then formulating statements based on them. Sources are used as a starting point to inquiry, - further research will hopefully result from this activity. The kind of research the students will be carrying out will be inductive as they will be establishing facts directly referred to by the sources and they will be making inferences from the sources they are working with and researching further.

Principle number 1. Start with the particular, move out to the general. Otherwise the opposite of this is deductive reasoning which consists in passing from the ‘the universal’ to ‘the particular’. It is less likely that a primary school student will know how to draw conclusions from certain general truths.

The second principle that underpins this type of inquiry is active, student centred learning – but well supported and scaffolded by the teacher. It’s what Webster calls “light assistance”. Pedagogically speaking the approach is robust – it sits very much within a context of social constructivism. The interaction between you and the student is crucial even though you may think this approach is all about handing over responsibility for learning to the student. Yes, that’s partly true. Good inquiry methodology results in the interaction between adult and student guiding student thinking (From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side). Teachers have a vital role to play developing effective inquiry learning which includes initiating good questions to research and to analyse and to come up with reasoned meaningful conclusions. By promoting active learning – that is not just doing but thinking-- in classrooms the learning outcomes are more likely to become intellectually embedded says Hutchings, “what we discover, we retain”

The third principle underpinning inquiry learning is the use of open ended questioning, resulting in deep levels of engagement with problems that are likely to be multifaceted and complex. Its nature is exploratory (Hutchings, 2007). Hutchings says that the core of inquiry is the question and it is in the formulation and ‘or the analysis of that question that the important initial intellectual activity takes place. Philosophically it is a Socratic based activity - Socratic perception that our knowledge is formed by questions.

Students participate in acts of discovery, grappling with different ways of looking at ideas and issues and thinking creatively about problems that do not necessarily have simple answers.

The 'Instructional Strategies online' site succinctly sums up inquiry methodology when it says:

Using inquiry, students become actively involved in the learning process as they:

* act upon their curiosity and interests;
* develop questions;
* think their way through controversies or dilemmas;
* look at problems analytically;
* inquire into their preconceptions and what they already know;
* develop, clarify, and test hypotheses; and,
* draw inferences and generate possible solutions.