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Straddling The Gap: A MIddle School Teacher's Journey Towards Good Geography
Rosenstein, David Fredric
Valli, Linda R
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Research points to a gap between academic or disciplinary based geography and what is taught in secondary classes across the nation. This study documents a teacher’s journey and efforts to bring a more disciplinary approach to two suburban heterogeneous sixth grade geography classrooms. The researcher traces student perspectives on geography and facility with geographic reasoning as well as his own perspectives and pedagogy with respect to student data. The study attempts to map the space where school geography meets and interacts with disciplinary oriented geography based upon the Geography for Life National Geography Standards. Participants completed two sets of baseline assessments and two sets of end of year assessments as well as an initial intake survey. The seven primary participants were interviewed five times each throughout the academic school year and data were openly coded. The data suggest that students can learn geography and geographic reasoning from a disciplinary perspective. Students sharpened their geographic skills through deeper subject matter knowledge and developing spatial and ecological perspectives. The data also indicate that the teacher researcher faced considerable challenges in implementing a disciplinary approach to teaching geography. The coverage demands of a crowded history-centric curriculum together with ill-fitting resources required a labor-intensive effort to put together and execute this study. Study findings indicate that the path to good geography pedagogy can be impeded by a host of external and internal challenges. However, to forward thinking practitioners, the effort to straddle the gap between school geography and disciplinary-based geography may be well worth it.