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Advice for teachers -

Developing a program


The VCE Geography Study Design outlines the nature and sequence of learning and teaching necessary for students to demonstrate achievement of the outcomes for a unit. The areas of study describe the specific knowledge and skills required to demonstrate a specific outcome. Teachers are required to develop a program for their students that meet the requirements of the study design including areas of study, outcome statements, key knowledge and key skills. The introductory statement at the start of each area of study provides the context for the key knowledge and key skills.

One of the key aims of the study of VCE Geography is to enable students to analyse issues and challenges to human welfare and the environment, at a range of scales. An issue can be understood as a broad problem which needs to be addressed and a challenge is a specific difficulty in addressing the issue. Issues often arise as the result of geographical change such as a hazard event, the development of tourism, a change in land cover or population dynamics.


Characteristics of the study

In addition to the introductory statements, key knowledge and skills and outcomestatements for each area of study, there are four characteristics of the study of VCE Geography which must be addressed by teachers when designing learning programs and assessment tasks. These four characteristics are a mandated part of the course.

Key geographical concepts

The twelve key geographical concepts that underpin VCE Geography can be used by teachers in a variety of ways. For example, they can be used to direct analysis of geographic information, to focus a question in a class discussion or task, to suggest an explanation or to structure an investigation. Some, such as change, interconnection, process and sustainability involve great complexity in application and may be used to frame the approach to the area of study. The most effective way to introduce students to these concepts and to consolidate and develop students’ understanding of them is through learning activities based on the specific knowledge and skills of an area of study. This will help students become confident in using relevant geographical concepts in their work in VCE Geography.

Geographical skills

One of the aims of VCE Geography is for students to develop a range of skills specific to the use of geographical data and its application in making informed judgments about geographic challenges. These skills are both practical (for example, create simple overlays of data on a map or diagram) and interpretative (for example, use overlays to illustrate and assist with the analysis of spatial relationships). Teachers should refer to the table outlining the key geographical skills in the section of the study design titled ‘Characteristics of the study’ (pages 9–11) when developing learning programs. The table identifies skills to be incorporated into learning across Units 1–4. Students should be provided with the opportunity to develop and consolidate skills by using them in a variety of contexts over different units of study. The table of skills is a recommended starting point when devising practical or interpretative classroom activities, sourcing data for assessment tasks and guiding students in preparing, conducting and evaluating fieldwork.

Fieldwork report

Students are required to conduct fieldwork and write a report in each of Units 1, 2 and 3 of VCE Geography. The requirements and structure of the fieldwork report are outlined on pages 13–14 of the study design. Teachers should consider the selection of an appropriate fieldwork site, the timing and logistics of carrying out the fieldwork as one of the first steps in planning for these units. The fieldwork site selected should draw upon the key knowledge and skills of the relevant area of study, be accessible and allow students to develop skills in collecting data from secondary and from primary sources using fieldwork techniques. When developing a teaching program for each of these units, teachers should ensure that students understand the key requirements of the fieldwork report, including the skills needed to manipulate spatial data collected in the field to produce maps. Given the complexity of the requirements of the task, an appropriate amount of class time should be allocated to preparing students for conducting fieldwork and developing skills in processing, presenting and analysing data.

Geospatial technologies

Geospatial technologies are an integral part of a Geography student’s toolkit. These technologies include information that is geo-coded (‘spatial’ in nature), and those technologies (on- and off-line) available to manipulate, interrogate, analyse and represent data geographically. The availability of free, online geospatial tools has grown rapidly in recent years. Teachers do not need to purchase software or hardware to successfully embed these technologies into their senior Geography course. In VCE Geography, students study the role and application of geospatial technologies by agencies such as government or business and they also learn to use geospatial technologies themselves in their study.


1.  Hazards and disasters

  • Study of the processes involved in hazard generation (CSIRO and GeoScience Australia).
  • Monitoring of potential hazards (responses) (NOAA) using both satellite imagery and GIS.
  • Assessment of the impacts of hazard events (NASA Earth Observatory).
  • Emergency response and recovery planning (Victorian CFA).

2.  Tourism: issues and challenges

  • Using GPS to track tourists’ spatial behaviours (tourism industry).
  • Using drone technology to assess the impact of tourism.
  • Tracking tourist flows between and within countries.

3.  Changing the land

  • Satellite imagery over time used to study land cover change (ESA).
  • Local government GIS departments monitoring and approving land use changes.

4.  Human population: trends and issues

  • Online databases such as WorldBank, World Health Organization and country databases, and how this data is represented
  • National government authorities such as the ABS who collect spatial data to inform government decisions.
  • Local or state government authorities using GIS to analyse and implement strategies.


In VCE Geography, students also use online geospatial tools in learning activities across the unit(s), in particular the production of maps, data and other information.


1.  Hazards and disasters

  • Using online geospatial tools to locate natural hazards, as well as determine causes and impacts by turning on and off layers of data.
  • Assess the impact of hazards using satellite imagery.
  • Develop responses to hazards based on GIS data.

2.  Tourism: issues and challenges

  • Research secondary data and map this to analyse tourism trends and patterns at a local or regional scale.
  • Collect geospatial data from a tourist location using GPS, and map this using GIS to determine tourism patterns.

3.  Changing the land

  • Interpret remote sensing imagery to study change of land cover and land use over time.
  • Use online geospatial tools to analyse causes and impacts of land cover change at a global scale.

4.  Human population: trends and issues

  • Analysis of global datasets to investigate population trends using sites such as ‘Our World in Data’ and ‘DataWrapper’.
  • Use of ABS data to create choropleth maps at differing scales (national, state, region, suburb) to analyse trends and issues.


Unit 1: Hazards and disasters

Unit 1 begins with an overview of hazards at a global scale before a close examination of at least two contrasting types of hazards. The introduction to Unit 1 and Area of Study 1 explains the requirements of case study selection and provides examples. The teacher can decide the best order to teach the key knowledge and key skills and there is no requirement to teach each of the areas of study completely separately. A program could be structured around consecutive investigations of two or more hazards, in which the processes, impacts and responses are examined. If this approach is used, careful consideration needs to be given to how each outcome will be addressed in assessment tasks. One of the selected hazards should be the subject of the fieldwork study at a local scale. There is scope for the teacher to integrate class exercises about additional case studies to broaden students’ knowledge and understanding of the type of hazard they are investigating in depth. This is also an effective way to introduce key geographical concepts and skills.

The mandated assessment task for this unit is the fieldwork report. It is possible to conduct one fieldwork activity that addresses aspects of both areas of study. Teachers should ensure the requirements of the fieldwork activities and report are scaffolded carefully for students in this unit. It is appropriate to modify the requirements of the fieldwork report and assessment for Unit 1 in order to allow students time to develop specific skills: for example, the collection, processing and presentation of data from primary sources.

Unit 2 Tourism: issues and challenges

In Unit 2 students examine the characteristics of and reasons for global trends in tourism since the 1950s and current global patterns before investigating the impacts of tourism and management strategies in depth at selected locations. One of the key geographical concepts central to this unit is interconnections between host and source destinations of tourists. As with Unit 1, there is flexibility in deciding whether to cover each of the areas of study separately or to address elements of each area of study concurrently when examining specific tourism examples. The introduction to each of the areas of study and the key knowledge in Area of Study 1 specify that students should study at least one example of tourism in Australia that could be a fieldwork site and at least one example of ethical tourism occurring overseas. In order to address the wide range of key knowledge and key skills in each area of study, there is scope for investigation of additional case studies at a range of scales.

The introduction to Unit 2 provides a definition of tourism and an overview of the type of factors that can help explain its characteristics. The VCE Geography Study Design does not provide examples of different types of tourism; therefore, when designing learning activities to address this teachers can make use of classifications such as: type of destination, format of travel, purpose of travel, cost and age groups. Specific examples of types of tourism could include: adventure tourism, package tours, eco tours, cultural and heritage tourism and dark tourism.

When planning the fieldwork component of Unit 2, teachers are encouraged to provide opportunities for new methods of data collection. Students have the opportunity to further develop skills in meeting the requirements of the fieldwork report, such as analysis of data in answering the research question and using geospatial technology to present mapped information.

Unit 3 Changing the land

When studying land cover change in Unit 3 Area study of 1, students are first introduced to global patterns of land cover and how these have changed over geological time. This provides an understanding of the impact of natural climatic changes and their impacts on the earth’s biomes prior to the industrial era. Examining the global patterns of land cover distribution offers the opportunity to explore the key geographic concepts of change, distribution, spatial association, environment and interconnection. When selecting locations to examine the processes, impacts and responses of deforestation and melting glaciers and ice sheets, teachers are advised to begin by considering case studies that are rich in data and engaging for students. In particular, there should be clearly identifiable issues, challenges, and local and national responses. Care should be taken in defining the scale of responses. The scale should reflect the geographical location and extent of the response, rather than the scale of the organisation. It is possible for students to examine the use and effectiveness of geospatial technology in managing land cover change as part of a local, national or global response to the impacts of deforestation and melting glaciers and ice sheets.

While the two areas of study in Unit 3 are linked, it should be noted that in terms of knowledge and skills, they stand alone. Therefore, it is possible to teach Area of Study 2: Land use change prior to Area of Study 1 if this best suits the timing of fieldwork. In completing this outcome, students have the opportunity to develop a range of practical, technical and analytical skills in the domains of land management and urban planning. Teachers are advised to make use of professional networks and community organisations when selecting a fieldwork site and designing the learning activities. The fieldwork report is a significant assessment task in Unit 3 and requires careful planning so that students will have the opportunity to achieve at the highest level. The learning activities provided for this area of study offer examples of how the task can be scaffolded for students.

Unit 4 Human population: trends and issues

Unit 4 Area of Study 1 provides students with an understanding of the key features of population dynamics on a global scale and should be taught before Area of Study 2. A range of examples between and within countries with different economic, social and political conditions should be used when developing learning activities for Area of Study 1. Teachers may wish to introduce the countries that will be covered in Area of Study 2 as examples, although this is not a requirement.

In Unit 4 Area of Study 2 students have the opportunity to consolidate their understanding of population dynamics and apply it to two specific current populations. When selecting case studies for the study of a growing and ageing population, it should be noted that the countries should come from different regions in the world. For example, the growing population of a sub-Saharan African country could be contrasted with that of an ageing European country. The VCE Geography Study Design does not provide a definition of a growing population and many of the world’s countries are experiencing population growth to varying degrees. In selecting case studies, teachers should choose countries with growing and ageing populations where the issues, challenges and strategies to respond to the impacts of population issues are clearly identifiable.

Learning activities

A variety of suggested learning activities have been provided for each area of study in Units 1–4. It should be noted that they cover a range of the key knowledge and key skills for each area of study, but not all of them. Some activities could be completed within one class and others could be completed over an extended period. They include learning activities that involve group work, class discussion, practical application of geographical skills and synthesis of knowledge and skills in written responses. Many of the learning activities could be adapted for use in other areas of study or units or developed as assessment tasks. All of them are intended to be examples for teachers to adapt to suit the needs of their own students.


Fieldwork report

Students are required to complete a fieldwork report in Units 1, 2 and 3. The requirements of the fieldwork report and the use of the performance descriptors in assessment may be modified in Units 1 and 2, particularly when introducing students to the skills of developing a research question and writing a fieldwork report in Unit 1. Teachers should provide students with opportunities to consolidate and develop their skills in developing a research question, undertaking an investigation using primary and secondary data sources, and writing a fieldwork report during Units 1 and 2, in preparation for undertaking the fieldwork report in Unit 3. Additionally, teachers should provide students with opportunities to collect data in the field using GNSS technology. When writing the fieldwork report, students should include maps that manipulate and represent this data using GIS platforms such as Google My Maps or ArcGIS.

Analysis of geographic data

In this type of assessment task, students are required to analyse geographic data in a variety of formats, including statistical data, maps, images and text. The table outlining key geographical skills in the Characteristics of the study provides a useful overview of the types of geographic data VCE Geography students should be able to interpret. When developing analysis of geographic data assessment tasks, teachers should select data and develop questions that allow students to use analytical skills while demonstrating understanding and application of aspects of the key knowledge of the area of study and the key geographical concepts. Question design should allow for differing levels of thinking in student responses. Presenting geographic data in a separate data sheet/data booklet, rather than embedding it in a question and answer booklet, is an effective format. It allows flexibility in designing questions such as those requiring comparison or synthesis of data.

Structured questions

This type of assessment task should have a number of questions at various levels of complexity. Teachers have the flexibility to design a task using a combination of short-answer or extended-answer questions, questions involving interpretation of stimulus material or practical application of skills such as annotation, mapping, sketching and summarising. The key knowledge and key skills of the specific area of study should shape the development of the structured questions.

Research report

Students’ level of achievement for the outcome is assessed in this type of task through a report based on independent research into aspects of the area of study. The report could be guided by a topic, question, or series of questions. Options for the final presentation could include a handwritten or digital document. If the research report is used for assessment in Units 3 or 4, authentication strategies similar to those used for the fieldwork report should be put in place to ensure the work submitted for assessment is the student’s own work. The research report could be broken into different components, such as information gathering and a summative open-book task written under timed conditions.

Case study

This task assesses students’ level of achievement for the outcome through questions based on a specific case study that has been investigated during the area of study. Teachers have flexibility in designing the format of the task and type of questions. A sample approach to developing this type of assessment task has been included for Unit 4.

Multimedia presentation

This type of task assesses students’ level of achievement for the outcome through a presentation that uses at least two different types of media: for example, written text, maps, audio, video, animation, diagrams, ground, aerial and satellite photographs, tables and graphs. Possible digital formats for the presentation include slideshows, webpages and software such as Google Earth and Google Maps creation tools or ArcGIS’s StoryMaps.