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The effects of teacher conceptualization of geography on classroom practice: a Texas case study
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The National Geography Standards and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills call for a geography curriculum that encompasses all of geography's traditions: area studies, the interaction between humans and their environment, earth science, and spatial analysis (Pattison 1964). Teacher knowledge and conceptualization of subject matter filter the formal, mandated curriculum into a practical, classroom curriculum. The focus of this research is to explore the interaction between teachers' personal conceptions of geography and the environments they create to facilitate student learning. The study used qualitative research techniques in two phases: a survey of 109 teachers to identify common geographic conceptions held by Texas teachers and observation of three secondary geography teachers to identify ways their conceptions affected their curricular choices. The survey results were used to categorize teacher conceptualizations using Pattison's four traditions. The results indicated strong teacher support for area studies and human-environment interaction traditions. Although earth science and spatial analysis are both included in the state and national geography standards, neither received significant support from the surveyed teachers. Three secondary geography teachers were selected for interview and observation who reported a conception of geography aligned with the TEKS and National Geography Standards. This phase of the research identified how the elements of a conceptualization influence various curricular decisions that teachers must make: course structure, course purpose and emphasis, and daily instruction and activities. From this study it is clear that quality, standards-based geography can be taught with different pedagogical approaches. What is necessary for coherent instruction is consistency between beliefs about students, teaching, and the content. How a teacher copes with external controls influences her instructional choices. Teachers with more cohesive geographic conceptualizations were able to selectively comply with external controls while maintaining their personal perspective of the content and their classroom choices. A teacher who feels considerable pressure from outside sources will have her own conceptualization of the content disabled as a useful guiding force for curricular decisions. If teachers do develop rich conceptualizations of geography, there is a clear benefit in empowering teachers to implement them.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 119-125).
Issued also on microfiche from Lange Micrographics.
Whisenant, Susan Elliott (2002). The effects of teacher conceptualization of geography on classroom practice: a Texas case study. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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