Students' alternative conceptions in geography

Rod Lane

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Within the contexts of learning and teaching there is a substantial (and growing) body of research indicating that students often bring to class a range of 'alternative frameworks' and 'naïve theories' (constructed from their prior experiences) that are inconsistent with currently accepted 'expert views'. While there is a significant body of work related to students' conceptions in some subject domains (namely Physics), there has been little research undertaken on the relationship between teacher awareness of student conceptions and effective pedagogy in Geography. The National Curriculum debate in Australia provides geographers with a unique opportunity to consider the role of students' preconceptions in the development of conceptual understanding in Geography and the implications of this for its pedagogy. This paper argues that an understanding of students' common preconceptions regarding core geographical concepts is a central component of a teacher's pedagogical content knowledge and that this knowledge is essential for the development of pedagogies that promote conceptual change and deep understanding in this domain. The paper provides a review of the literature concerning the nature and development of students' pre-instructional ideas and foreshadows an agenda for future research that will enhance our understanding of the relationship between student preconceptions and classroom practice in Geography. • The term 'storm surge' refers to a sudden burst in storm activity which creates problems in the supply of electricity. • Cyclones are a common cause of tsunamis. • Heat from car exhausts is responsible for the Greenhouse Effect. • Cold temperatures are the main cause of strong winds. Given the current debate surrounding the development of a National Curriculum for Geography, and the Deputy Prime Minister's recent announcement (Ferrari, 2008) that the National Curriculum design process needs to be informed by 'research' to determine 'the best possible methods of teaching', it is timely that we examine the research on evidence-based pedagogical approaches in Geography, especially as they relate to the development of student conceptual understandings. The works cited in this paper provide a succinct summary of earlier reported research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)43-52
    Number of pages10
    JournalGeographical education
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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