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How to structure courses and modules

Geography programmes can be designed as linked courses over three years, as one-year courses, or as short (modular or one-semester) courses.

One year/semester | Three years | Cross-curricula

Another alternative is to include aspects of geography within a cross-curricular course of study that includes several disciplines – such as a focus on a local area that could include aspects from geography, social studies and history. Another alternative is a course that focuses more on the land use and could incorporate geography, agriculture and horticulture, and economics

The challenge is to develop a learning programme that inspires students and equips them to understand the world and their place in it, as well as promoting learning from the range of possible geographies. When designing a geography programme effective teachers draw on their own experiences and also involve their students in the decision making. For example in a programme focusing on physical and human environments students may contribute ideas to environments locally, nationally and globally that they are interested in exploring.

One-year or one semester programmes

Begin by considering the identified learning needs and interests of your students and then relate these to what you, as a geography teacher, believe needs to be part of the geography programme.

Consider aspects of geography that you would like to see in any geography programme at the relevant levels and blend all these into your planned programme.


Focusing the programme around a detailed study of an environment, for example, the Coromandel Peninsula.

The course could be assessed using a variety of achievement standards drawn from all three levels.

  • The operation of natural processes within the beach setting of Cathedral Cove can be assessed using geography 3.1.
  • The students may not be ready to undertake independent research so the level 1 research standard could be used because direction can be provided to the students.
  • A study of urban settlements on the Coromandel allows AS91241 Geography 2.2 to be used to assess the study of urban patterns in Thames.
  • Resource use on the Coromandel is assessed using AS91009 Geography 1.3.

Three-year programmes

Teachers may develop a concept-based programme. Choose underpinning concepts that run across all three levels and, within each level, include studies from a variety of locations and scales.

Within the course choose three or four major themes to underpin the programme each year.

  • At level 6 the theme might be how people interact with their environment.
  • At level 8 the theme could be why natural and cultural environments are that way, with an emphasis on the concept of processes.

Within the programme for each year include studies from the personal and local, within and across New Zealand, places overseas, and global-scale studies.

Cross-curricula programmes

Concepts like diversity can be approached through a range of subjects. In discussion with the teachers from relevant curriculum areas, select themes and concepts to become the focus of learning in an integrated learning environment. This will allow geography to take a significant and distinctive part in a programme of learning with multidisciplinary content.


Students could examine the development of sustainable urban communities through a multidisciplinary programme involving geography, education for sustainability, science and technology.

People’s perceptions and interactions with natural and cultural environments could involve geography, agriculture and horticulture, and economics.

Last updated August 24, 2012