The Incorporation of Standards-Based Geography Into the Classroom In Maryland Middle School Grades
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Since the 1994 publication of Geography for Life, educators have questioned the extent to which the national geography standards for grades K-12 have been incorporated into state standards and further, the extent to which written state standards are taught in the classroom. The purpose of this research was to examine the intended versus the taught curriculum in geography in selected middle school social studies classes in the State of Maryland and to assess the extent to which the level of standards-based teaching is associated with teacher training and skills. Using a mixed methods approach that included a survey of teachers, data were collected that provided for quantitative analysis. In focus group discussions, teachers elaborated on the questionnaire items yielding qualitative data. The data from both methods formed the basis of analysis of comparison between the intended curriculum of the published standards and the taught curriculum as reported by the teachers themselves. The research and analysis indicated a variance between the intended and the taught curriculum in the classrooms of participating teachers. Teachers‘ college course work correlated with the intensity of classroom teaching of some of the Maryland standards. Confidence of teachers in their content knowledge and teaching techniques showed apparent association with the intensity of teaching some of the Maryland standards. Further, teachers believed their abilities to teach geography were influenced by informal sources, such as travel and reading, to a greater extent than more formal training. The research and analysis suggested several actions that might enhance the standards-based teaching of geography. The Maryland standards might be strengthened to: 1) encourage higher order cognitive skills; 2) emphasize spatial thinking skills; 3) include greater guidance for teachers in activities and assessments; and 4) build a progressive curriculum in geography. Other findings included the opportunities for additional professional development for teachers, use of the technology of geography in the classroom, additional classroom materials, textbook supplements, and field trips. Although statewide assessments were discussed by educators, committed and dependable class time for the subject of geography might be an effective alternative to increase the accountability of teaching and learning course material. Finally, a geography study community was suggested to build teachers‘ appreciation for the breadth and depth of the discipline of geography as well as its focus on issues at all scales ? local, regional, national, and global as a way to enhance their specifically assigned curriculum with their students.