Friday, 23 January 2009

A possible new assessment model for the future

You can't escape assessment....but you could e-Scape assess.....
The GA has been involved, with Goldsmiths College, in an exciting trial of a new method of assessing student's geographical work, using handheld technology (PDAs) to create a digital portfolio, which is then assessed using a method called 'comparative pairs'. This is a more robust method of comparison between individual pieces of work than the traditional method of moderating pieces of coursework. It was suggested by Alastair Pollitt, former head of research at Cambridge Assessment, based on earlier work in the 1920s (see later)

The final report on the trial, written by Fred Martin with David Lambert has now been made available on the GA website, along with further details on the project.

The trial involved schools taking part in a field visit to Porthcawl, and exploring the issue of rebranding on their return. There are links to other projects which involved the use of handheld technologies, and also the idea of media landscapes. The report also mentions a range of other field investigations which Fred Martin produced.
An e-portfolio was created as a result of the process, and this was judged by comparing each portfolio with all of the others, and saying in each case "which is best" ? The software that was used was an online system, which meant that judging could take place at a time and place to suit the judges within the (fairly tight) timeframe that we were given.
Over time, the software decided that there were some pairs that didn't need to be compared (if you take the 'best' and the 'worst' piece from a sample, you don't really need to compare them to see which is best as it's fairly obvious...)

As one of the judging team, I have to say that this whole process was a fascinating insight into the techniques (and in some cases, deficiencies) of the current systems of assessing large numbers of exam candidates. I certainly learnt a great deal about the way that assessment works. A related issue is that this could form an approach to the management of controlled assessment, as the software on the PDAs could be set up to

The appendices in the report, which can be downloaded from THIS PAGE of the GA website would reward closer reading by those who are interested in an alternative approach, which also taps into the

The later appendices contain too many 'hard sums' for me, but I think they say that I was a reasonable judge - was I more Craig Revel Horwood than Bruno Tonioli ?

For those who also want a little more, Tony Wheeler has published a useful summary of the whole process on the FUTURELAB website's FLUX section, and there is also a TEACHERS TV programme on e-assessment. Mobile phones are mentioned here too (iPhones perhaps ?)

This includes a useful analysis of the comparative pairs method, and the reason why an e-portfolio makes the judging of this a possibility....

Alastair explained how Louis Thurston had developed this theory of assessment in the 1920s, based on simply comparing one piece of work directly with another. Alastair argued that abstract assessment criteria did not help in the process of marking, as examiners inevitably convert the abstract into concrete exemplars, increasing variability and unreliability. So why not just compare work directly? If enough comparisons between two different pieces of work are made by enough judges, a very reliable rank order emerges (the one that always wins moves to the top, the one that always looses goes to the bottom and the others spread appropriately between). I understand that QCA use this system already to monitor inter-board comparability, basically to ensure an ‘A’ in maths from OCR is the same as an ‘A’ in maths from Edexcel.

The problem lies in the scale of the award. With twenty paper scripts and half a dozen judges it can be done round a table, but when there are thousands of scripts and dozens of judges it becomes a logistical impossibility. However, with the advent of web-based portfolios, like the e-scape set of portfolios, are available anywhere and anytime each assessor has an internet connection. Multiple copies can be viewed at anytime, making the paired process possible in a high-stake assessment for the first time.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

GIS at the GA

Just been browsing the new "GIS for A-level geography" book written by Peter O' Connor
This is available from the GA Shop: priced just under £30 for GA members.

It's the first book of its kind to cover GIS at this level.

After an introduction to GIS, which includes a range of practical applications. I like the fact that it starts with a simple image of supermarket loyalty cards. When I used to teach 'A' level ICT, there was a section on the importance and value of data collection of this type, which can be used to populate a database of geo-referenced data linked to individual's shopping patterns.

The book explores methods and techniques of data analysis and GIS output and applications.

What teachers will perhaps find particularly useful are the 5 practical exercises which use ArcView 9.2 (a 12 month trial of the software and mapping data are included on the DVD that accompanies the book)

1. Where are all the people ? - map the UK's population density
2. How do patterns of crime vary across England and Wales ?
3. Is there a relationship between crime and levels of urban development ?
4. How does economic and social structure vary across the Cambridge urban-rural fringe ?
5. Mapping areas of low flood risk

Every activity has been fully explained with screenshots of every step of the process and full descriptions of which key to press....

Monday, 12 January 2009

Young Geographer of the Year

An extension activity for your AS geographers !!

Get your students in on this year's competition.
More details at the GEOGRAPHICAL MAGAZINE website.

The theme this year is ARCTIC.

Sponsored by Explore – the leading adventure holiday company, this year's winners win a place on an Arctic expedition, prizes for your school and more. The competition is open to young geographers throughout the country under the age of 18 years

We want you to carry out a project that involves a journey to the Arctic. What would you take with you and why? What would ensure your journey’s success? Your project should reflect a thorough investigation into the geography of the Arctic and a realistic portrayal of a journey to the North Pole. We would also like you to include one luxury item for your journey and an explanation of your item of choice and your reasons for choosing it.

Your entry can take whatever form you think is most appropriate – be it a written report, a short video film, a photographic essay, an audio file or a mix of all of these. The most important thing is that you plan and research accordingly for your Arctic journey and most of all – make sure to be creative and have fun!

Prize: 16–18 years

WIN! A place on the month-long expedition Arctic Adventure to East Greenland in July 2009, courtesy of BSES Expeditions.

The winner will depart in mid-July and will begin with a complicated journey via Iceland and southern Greenland. The expedition will involve three phases in the field – the science phase will build on long-term work in the area, including geology, survey work, fluvial and glacial studies, ornithology and invertebrates; in the trekking phase, groups will explore the mountains and undertake challenging journeys along ridges and through valleys to explore rarely visited areas; and in the mountaineering phase, groups will be trained in snow and ice techniques such as crevasse rescue, in order to undertake multi-day journeys on the glaciers and explore these untouched glaciers and mountains.

This is a chance of a lifetime to go on one of BSES’s extraordinary expeditions and to visit an amazing place that most people just dream about! To find out more about this expedition, visit

Terms and conditions of expedition

• You must be aged 16–18
• Must be available between mid-July and mid-August 2009
• Winner will be thoroughly interviewed by the expedition chief leader, and participation is strictly subject to his approval
• All participation is subject to a satisfactory medical check by the expedition chief medic
• The winner is responsible for their own travel and other associated costs to and from the UK point of departure/return for the expedition
• The prize does not include any personal kit, such as rucksack, sleeping bag, clothing and the like
• The winner must have a good understanding of the English language

Prize: 13–15 years and 12 years and under

WIN! A five-day Arctic Ice Adventure to Sweden, courtesy of Explore – the leading adventure holiday company

Based in the northern outpost of Kiruna, your adventure starts with a dogsled safari. With teams of huskies attached to each sled (along with a skilled local doing the driving!), we ‘mush off’ into the wilderness. There’s also the option of snowmobiling cross-country and over frozen lakes towards Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest peak. And every night, there’s the chance to enjoy that most traditional of Swedish activities: a sauna.

On a visit to Jukkasjarvi, we overnight at the world-famous Icehotel, where everything from the chandeliers to the glasses for your drinks is made of ice. We can also play Father Christmas and ride our own reindeer sled, and enjoy a range of optional activities – from snowshoeing and ice-fishing to cross-country skiing.
You’ll love: • Trying a Swedish sauna • The thrill of dog-sledding • Meeting Sami reindeer herdsmen


All winning schools will receive a library of books worth £100 each, courtesy of Dorling Kindersley.

The Advisory Unit: Computers in Education will provide the schools of the winners of the 13–15 year and 16–18 year categories with a full site licence of AEGIS 3 –
their award-winning education geographic information system. There will also be further prizes from Ordnance Survey.

All finalists and their teachers will be invited to an awards ceremony at the RGS-IBG on Tuesday, 26 May 2009.

For more information and to download an entry form, you must be registered on Click here to do so. If you are already signed up to the site, simply log in and click on the tab 'Members area'.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Groups on the NING

The Edexcel NING now has 12 groups.
There are 6 for the Unit 3 topics, and 6 for the Unit 4 topics.
Visit, Join, Contribute...
Each group has all the ENQUIRY QUESTIONS entered as discussion starters, or you can add your own discussions.
Don't forget that any reply or discussion starter can also have documents attached.

Cultural Geography

Just been adding some sections to the EDEXCEL GEOG NING which now has over 420 members. Come and join us if you haven't already....
Noticed that one of the options for the GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH topic (which is Unit 4) is:

Option 4: The World of CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY (Extract from Edexcel Document)

Culture is a complex concept, with multiple meanings but universal importance to human populations. In many parts of the world consumption is the dominant, but not the only, culture. Culture varies spatially and has a distinct geography, with some areas being relatively homogenous while others offer greater diversity. Large urban areas often produce diversity, which is reflected in the population, services and built environment of cities. Attitudes to cultural diversity differ, both personal and political/national.

Cultural Patterns
Globalisation is seen by some as a key process in driving culture towards a global model, and media TNCs and communications technology aid this process. However, the pattern is complex and localised cultures do survive and new cultures can still be generated. Culture, to some extent, determines our attitude to the wider environment in terms of consumption, conservation, exploitation and protection. Attitudes to the environment differ between cultures; however, the dominance of today's consumer capitalism is difficult to resolve with pressing environmental concerns.

1. Defining Culture and identifying its value

Enquiry Question
What is the nature and value of culture in terms of peoples and places ?

2. The Geography of Culture

Enquiry Question
How and why does culture vary spatially ?

3. The impact of Globalisation on cultural diversity ?

Enquiry Question
How is globalisation impacting on culture ?

4. Cultural attitudes to the environment
Enquiry Question
How do cultural values impact on our relationship with the environment ?

Some of this has a real overlap with the PILOT GCSE, which once again suggests that there are some links between this spec and the pilot making it a good 'follow on' course.
For some ideas, check the CULTURAL LABELLED posts on my PILOT BLOG (which has now been closed to new posts)

Another Onion starter for Risky World

Hurricane Bound For Texas Slowed By Large Land Mass To The South

Off the wall concentric circles starter....

Breaking News: Series Of Concentric Circles Emanating From Glowing Red Dot

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

GA Magazine

The latest edition of the GA Magazine is now available to download from the GA website (you need to log in first...)This is a particularly good issue, but then I have to declare an interest: I edited the issue, along with David Rayner.
In addition to the usual features, such as a particularly good Webwatch, there are some feature pieces on the concept of INTERDEPENDENCE.

The middle section was the bit I edited.
Highlights of the issue include:
  • "Thinking inside the box": an article on the BBC 'box' project by me
  • "Connecting Classrooms": an article by Graham Goldup on a project to develop a school link with Arusha, Tanzania & Brighton schools
  • "Windwards Revisited": an article by Martin Crabbe on the ongoing links that he has maintained following a trip to the Windward Islands in 2005
  • "Interdependence Day": a summary of the report by Joe Smith of the Open University
  • "Food glorious food - but for how much longer ?": an article by me on a TDA CPD unit that I'm writing - contrary to what it says in the magazine it's not quite finished yet....
  • "Cheap food and global interdependence" by Peter Jackson of the University of Sheffield
  • "Into Africa" - Emma Cook talking about her toolkit book
  • "A Thorny Issue" - Louise Ellis talking about her toolkit book
There is also an outline on A DIFFERENT VIEW: the Manifesto for school geography which will be launched at the GA Conference.

Thanks in particular to David Rayner, Graham Goldup, Joe Smith, Peter Jackson, Martin Crabbe, Louise Ellis and Emma Cook

Sunday, 4 January 2009

USGS Global Warming Links

With thanks to Stuart Hitch via SLN (text of original post...)

"About 125,000 years ago, during a warmer climatic interval in the last interglacial stage, sea level was about 6 meters (about 19.7 feet) higher than it is today.

About 2.2 million years ago, during an even warmer inter val, sea level is estimated to have been 25 to 50 meters (about 82 to 164 feet) higher."

Good to see some acceptance that the world HAS been warmer in the past and that sea levels HAVE been higher instead of the usual "warmest decade on record" scaremongering. Presumably these were totally natural warming events - if not those prehistorics must have had hellish carbon footprints!

Also worth a look ..... repeat photographs of glaciers ...... some have retreated and some have advanced. "