UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Course of laboratory studies in geography for senior secondary schools Golf, Aristotle George Jubilee


Current literature emphasizes the need to attempt new approaches in the teaching of Social Studies. Jerome S. Bruner in his book The Process of Education (1961), claims that the main objective of a school must be to "present subject matter effectively, - that is with due regard not only for coverage but also for structure." Only by teaching the fundamental structure of a subject is that subject comprehensible to the student. Bruner says: "Intellectual activity anywhere is the same, whether at the frontier of knowledge or in a third grade classroom. What a scientist does at his desk or in his laboratory .... is the same order as what anybody does when he is engaged in like activity if he is to achieve understanding. The difference is in degrees, not in kind. A schoolboy learning physics is a physicist, and it is easier for him to learn physics behaving like a physicist than by doing something else." Professional geographers advocate the inductive method of teaching so that pupils discover the structure of geography in the same way as it is understood by the professional geographer. The teaching then should be experimental and intellectually stimulating, leading from geographical data supplied to reach the desired principles and generalisations. To-day children at various levels of efficiency, learn the inductive method in their study of chemistry, biology, and similar sciences. In theory - if not always in practice- they study in laboratories, consider hypotheses, analyze examples, draw tentative conclusions, and make cautious generalisations. Similar inductive procedures have increasingly marked the work of professional geographers, sociologists and political scientists. In short, pupils should be taught to become amateur geographers, performing similar (not identical) tasks of those scholars working on the frontiers of knowledge. Paraphrasing Jerome Brune, "If children are going to learn geography, they must do things the way geographers do them." This is the whole essence of the laboratory approach - it is a successful way to teach geography because it is essentially the way geographers operate, During the last four years I have conducted a continuing experiment into the development of an approach to better geographic teaching. This experiment has attempted to evaluate the relative effectiveness of a laboratory approach to the teaching of geography. The word "laboratory" suggests exploration and adventure on a rather direct, personal basis. Thus, the laboratory approach provides the opportunity for active study at firsthand basis and direct involvement of the students. It makes provision for the students to do something on their own - using their thinking ability and with their own hands. This is the basis of inquiry-oriented approaches and the new strategies, now being increasingly used in the domain of social studies. But this direct experience does not mean that the laboratory approach in social studies education ignores reading and highly symbolic abstract experiences. The laboratory approach offers much more to the students than listening to the teacher or studying the textbook. It represents a significant means for communicating non-verbal experiences and knowledge to the students. For example, laboratory methods train individuals to develop their observational power, and help them acquire skills. Along with these, the atmosphere in the laboratory promotes the desire to share experiences. It develops the ability of working together, provides for individual, creative activity and heightens pupil motivation. Studies of instructional practices suggest that teaching processes and materials should be coordinated in a systematic manner. We should, as teachers, spend a great deal of time and effort in planning to that teaching materials are directly related to a systematic study of a problem. In recent years, considerable emphasis has been placed on individualization of learning. The laboratory approach maximizes the opportunity for individualization of learning, provides for creativity, and originality. The use of laboratory strategies and materials other than dry words and textbooks are significant in making social studies education real and concrete. The laboratory approach is not a panacea but it offers an opportunity to make the teaching of geography more interesting and exciting. It has proven possible in courses in physical science to have students perform simple experiments in order to come closer to understanding the methods of science. I see no conceivable reason why this can't be done in social science. In the Laboratory Approach students and teachers plan together and share materials, an important part of learning -teaching process. Besides fostering the achievement of the cognitive and effective objectives of teaching social studies the Laboratory Approach develops various kinds of skills -communicative, creative, acquisitive, organizational and manipulative. This course is based on the view that the traditional emphasis on expository teaching of Geography by lecture and rote memorization must be replaced by an emphasis on the use of inductive methods through which students learn to use the materials and modes of thought of geographers. In the course itself, the inductive approach is used, laboratory type studies are used throughout in which principles are applied to materials in the structuring of lessons. The uses of aerial photos described here are desirable in that the tool, the photo, is considered a means not an end. The exercises force the student to face situations which require him to generalize. He must make an orderly study of the land use of the area shown in the photograph and then organize the data for the purpose of generalization. The student also gains an appreciation of the problems of the map maker as well as a better understanding of the cultural and physical patterns of the area included in the photograph. This learning logically provides motivation for seeking similar patterns in the areas contiguous to that studied as well as to distant areas. The elements of geography teaching emphasized in this experimental work are the elements of geographic field study; observation and recording of information, selection of required data from that which has been observed and recorded and then analyzation, synthesization and interpretation of all this selected data in order to formulate a generalization. The ideas offered here are merely samples of kinds of experiments possible in the social studies Laboratory Approach. A flexible approach and a capitalizing on what takes place in both the classroom and the community may develop entirely different ways to involve the student in acting and reacting. "New frontiers" in any category of academic disciplines emerge from territory already explored. Those time-tested and solid foundations of the social studies which have served well in the past obviously must not be cast aside in favor of untested educational programs and designs. What are "new frontiers" for some, accordingly, may be old and comfortable territory for others. Some of the concepts and observations set forth in this paper, therefore, are not necessarily new, although many school systems for one reason or another may not have given them consideration or trial.

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