To celebrate the launch of Carousel for Geography, we will be holding a free webinar on Wednesday 10th May to discuss the challenges and opportunities of using retrieval practice in the teaching of geography. Reserve your place using this link.
Geography teachers are faced with a daunting task. As the only truly multidisciplinary subject traditionally studied in schools, geography teachers have to harmonise and synthesise a vast array of different ideas, concepts and skills into a cohesive whole. Their aim is to develop students who can “think like a geographer” — students who can question the world around them and trace physical and social events back to their origins and make predictions about their eventual future.
A daunting task, perhaps — but also an exciting one. Geography curriculums tend to be rich in a way that many others aren’t: they constantly deal with “real world” content, ideas that relate directly to our day to day life at local, regional and global scales.
Of course, if students are to access and conquer this curriculum, it is our task as teachers to chart a manageable route through it. At Carousel, we believe that one of the components of this task involves a careful and rigorous codification of all the core knowledge students need to have at their fingertips. This core knowledge is a good in and of itself, but it also has utility — it allows students to access and develop more complex thought that relies on these foundational building blocks.
And when it comes to geography, there are lots of building blocks.
So many, in fact, that students can quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of knowledge that they are expected to first integrate and assimilate, and then apply in unfamiliar contexts.
When we spoke to geography teachers about this issue, they told us that they were in need of a tool that could help them communicate these building blocks and help students commit them to memory in a workload-friendly and efficient way. Because Carousel is designed with issues like this in mind via its flashcard, quizzing, marking, feedback and whiteboard functionality (shown on this video), we knew that it could prove to be an enormous help to geography teachers.
Carousel relies on Question Banks: sets of questions designed to help students learn core knowledge. In light of the above, we set about preparing Question Banks to cover the AQA GCSE Geography course. We conceptualised these questions very specifically as a “floor” not a “ceiling” — they are there to support teachers and students, without limiting them.
Broadly speaking, the idea would be that geography teachers first:
1. Teach content
2. Set students flashcards from that content
3. Set students quizzes based on those flashcards
Then the students:
1. Use the flashcards to achieve fluency in core knowledge
2. Take the quiz to test their knowledge
3. Self-assess their quiz
Teachers can then:
1. Moderate student self-assessment quickly and easily
2. Identify misconceptions
3. Analyse and interrogate date on student understanding as it builds over time
4. Use the Whiteboard mode and Whole Class Feedback to bring quizzing into the classroom
The process is entirely driven by the teacher. We strongly believe that “students do homework for their teachers, not for their computers”, and teachers should be the ones selecting the content students are going to work on, then carefully integrating student performance with classwork. Whilst Carousel helps with most of the heavy lifting, the teacher is in the driving seat.
We worked on the banks with expert geography teachers Kate Stockings and Ben Ranson. We’ve also taken advice and guidance from a range of others, including Jack Gallagher and Darren Anderson. To give you a sneak peek at the Question Banks, we’ve asked them to sample a few questions and explain why they think they are important, and following that, there are a series of FAQs below.
Consistency of definitions can be really difficult to achieve across a geography department- partly owing to the sheer number of definitions we have to teach our GCSE students and also because of the incredibly busy timetables of departmental members — meaning that we don’t get to discuss the definitions we’re using as often as we might like to. What I like about Carousel Learning is that definitions are a key part of the question bank and so this consistency becomes much easier to achieve. And, if you don’t think our definitions quite suit your curriculum design, you can tweak them to make them your own!
The three examples below exemplify how definitions are embedded throughout the question bank. Where students need to be able to define tier 3 vocabulary in a specific way, we have given careful thought to the definitions given- ensuring that they are clear and concise and best summarise the term for students. The three below are all definitions where, in the past, I’ve sometimes spotted inconsistencies in the definitions given to students which can then lead to misconceptions. For example, defining ‘biodiversity’ as ‘the number of plant and animal species’ without including the critical ‘in a given area’ phase.
Q: What is meant by biodiversity?
A: The number of different plants and animals species in a given area
Q: What is desertification?
A: When previously fertile and productive land becomes infertile and unproductive
Q: What are greenfield sites?
A: Land that has never been used for construction- the land has never been developed
Kate Stockings is an experienced geography teacher with 6 years experience as Head of Department. She is currently Trust Lead for Geography at Future Academies, working across their schools to improve the geography provision. Alongside her teaching, Kate blogs, writes and presents for numerous organisations and loves sharing her passion for geography curriculum.
Explaining processes lies at the heart of good Geography, but there’s a lot of knowledge and skills to explaining them well. Writing articulately about complex processes, clearly and succinctly, is something that definitely gets better with practice.
By offering students the opportunity for regular retrieval practice of these longer responses we can support students in building confidence, developing their knowledge, and using key vocabulary. Carousel offers students the chance to self-assess against model answers, checking their understanding and developing the quality of their writing. It’s a win-win for retrieval practice and developing writing.
In these questions, you can see how we have tried to take complex processes and break them down into manageable chunks:
Q: How can permeable geology affect water security?
A: More precipitation infiltrates permeable geology, reducing the amount that runs off into lakes and rivers
In some places this can reduce water security, as clean water is less accessible
In hot climates, this can increase water security as less water is lost to evaporation
Water in the ground is less vulnerable to pollution which can increase water security
Q: Explain how meanders are formed
A: A river starts to bend
The outside of the river flows faster than the inside
The outside of the river erodes the river bank, and the inside of the river deposits material
The outside of the river forms a river cliff and the inside forms a slip-off slope
Q: Explain how spits are formed
A: Longshore drift transports material along the coastline.
Where the coastline changes direction, longshore drift continues and sediment begins to build up.
Over time, this sediment will build up to form a spit.
The spit shelters the area behind it, allowing more material to be deposited there.
Ben is a school leader and Geography teacher. He has worked in the U.K., China and Egypt. Sipping on good coffee, he spends much of his time reading what brighter minds have to say about teaching, knowledge, wellbeing, and the curriculum. Ben lives in Cairo with his wife Jen, training for ultra-marathons among desert canyons with his dog Hamish.
These diagram-based questions are integral for helping pupils extend from the concrete world of photographs to an abstract understanding of physical processes. Unlike diagrams from some textbooks or other online-based learning platforms, the diagrams used within these Carousel questions reduce the risk of exacerbating misconceptions by providing a clear sense of perspective, scale and size. By providing consistent, clear and concise diagrams, pupils are not overloaded with redundant detail that is superfluous to understanding during retrieval practice. As a result, by building this foundational competence, pupils are more likely to then replicate such diagrams in extended writing responses with annotations to further demonstrate a clear geographical understanding of physical processes.
Q: The diagrams below show three types of mass movement. Identify the types.
A: A) Rockfall; B) Slumping; C) Sliding
Q: The diagram shows a headland and bay. Identify the area of more resistant rock and the areas of less resistant rock.
A: A) Less resistant rock; B) More resistant rock
Q: The diagram shows a gorge, area of undercutting, waterfall, plunge pool and overhang. Identify each.
A: A) Overhang; B) Waterfall; C) Gorge; D) Plunge pool; E) Area of undercutting
Jack is an Early Career Geography Teacher at the Totteridge Academy in North London, with a particular interest in the development of T&L.
Geographers see connections in the world, how things interact and inter-relate. Making synoptic links in geography means making connections between different elements of the discipline. Geography as a multidisciplinary subject unsurprisingly has many cross topic connections but this is something that every year many students struggle with — too often students see topics in isolation of each other.
After students have completed their Carousel Whiteboard Do Now retrieval task, I often get them to create a concept map into their exercise books where they need to find the synoptic links between the questions / question topics. Synoptic links are important because they allow students to understand and analyse the relationship and interactions between physical, human, and environmental geography. By making synoptic links students can apply their knowledge, skills and understanding to situations that they are unfamiliar with.
These Carousel questions below demonstrate sound examples of synoptics links in Geography. Students are first challenged to retrieve the information and then they are further challenged to identify and explain the links. By understanding these links, students can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject, which can be helpful when revising.
Q: In economic development, what is uneven development?
A: The widening difference in levels of development between the world’s most developed and least developed countries
Q: What is population density?
A: The number of people living in a square kilometre (km2)
Q: What were the main long-term responses to New Zealand’s 2016 earthquake?
A: New water pipes built to withstand future damage
Charities set up with international donations to help those worst affected
Central funds provided for rebuilding
Repair of roads and rails
Q: What are the four types of management strategy for natural hazards?
A: Monitoring, prediction, protection, planning
Q: Why is a country more likely to be less developed if it has a high frequency or severity of natural disasters?
A: Natural disasters can reduce quality of life
Money spent on prevention, mitigation and rebuilding cannot be spent on other development projects
Darren Anderson is an experienced Geography teacher at The Victory Academy and has worked in both grammar and non-selective schools. Previously Darren has been a Head of Department and is now fortunate to work across his trust where he supports with all things thinking, teaching and learning. Darren has a passion for edu-tech and supporting staff development.
1) I currently use a different platform for setting homework. Why should I switch to Carousel?
We think that Carousel has an enormous amount to offer beyond what other platforms are able to achieve. We’ve narrowed it down to just a few headlines here, but please do get in touch if you’d like to see the platform in action to judge for yourself.
2) Can I edit the Question Banks?
Yes! We want you to be able to tailor the banks to your own classes so you can take ours, make a copy and then add, remove or modify any questions you like.
3) Which exam board are the Question Banks designed for?
The Question Banks were written with AQA in mind, but if you don’t use AQA you can always edit them (as above) or use some of the other wonderful question banks that Carousel teachers have generously shared into the community like these examples:
4. How have you handled Case Studies?
Case Studies are hard to get right with any kind of centralised resource — how can we possibly account for all the possible Case Studies that could be used? We decided to do a bit of informal research, and the Case Studies we’ve chosen were ones which a number of teachers had in common. We also picked ones that our authors were interested in and felt exemplified many of the principles inherent to a sophisticated geographical understanding. As above, if you don’t want to use ours, feel free to swap them out for your own ones!
5. What is the evidence that Carousel is effective?
Carousel is predicated on evidence from three main areas:
a) educational research into homework;
b) psychological research into retrieval practice;
c) teacher experience of effective classroom craft.
We’ve rounded up and summarised the research into homework here and retrieval practice here, and written a dedicated Teaching and Learning guide to effective classroom implementation, which you can download here.