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The place of place-based education in the Australian primary geography curriculum

journal contribution
posted on 2015-12-01, 00:00 authored by Marylou Preston
The idea for this paper emerged from a recent qualitative investigation which examined the ways in which six Australian primary teachers conceptualised geography and geography teaching (Preston, 2014b). A finding of this research was a strong correlation between the breadth of geographical understandings and the years of experience and age of participants. For early career teachers, conceptions of geography were narrowly confined to information-oriented perceptions. Whereas, the two teachers, with more than 30 years in primary schools, portrayed much more complex understandings. Their conceptions depicted geography as process-oriented and in relational terms, that is, understandings of geography that recognise the interactions and interdependence of people and environments (Bradbeer, Healey, & Kneale, 2004). Both these experienced teachers were also committed to place-based, inquiry approaches to geography teaching and had been using placebased methodologies long before it became a new movement in education (Morgan, 2009, p. 521 ). This prompted me to question why geography education seldom features in discourses of place-based education and to contemplate the oft-cited argument (at least in the United States) that the recent focus on curriculum standards is incompatible with locally responsive curriculum (Jennings, Swidler, & Koliba, 2005).
In order to answer these questions, I explore the intersections and divergences between place-based education and geography education in the Australian context. Drawing on Smith's (2002) and Gruenewald's (2003) conception of place-based education, and the new. Australian geography curriculum document, I argue that primary geography education has strong synergies with place-based education methodologies and aims. I further suggest that a geographical perspective can augment placebased education to enrich and broaden students' understandings of the complex interactions between and within places. This argument is balanced with a critical examination of the practice of geography education acknowledging that the tradition of fieldwork might benefit from placebased education approaches that enable more embodied, socially engaged interactions with places. Thus, I contend, place-based education and geography education are mutually supportive and each can extend the other. The paper concludes with a reflection on the challenges in Australia in preparing primary teachers for the implementation of the new (place-based) geography curriculum.



Geographical education




41 - 49


Australian Geogrpahy Teachers' Association


Sydney, N.S.W.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal; C Journal article

Copyright notice

2015, Australian Geogrpahy Teachers' Association

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