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Advice for teachers -

Teaching and learning activities

Unit 4 - Human population: trends and issues

Unit 4 - Area of Study 1: Population dynamics

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse and discuss population dynamics on a global scale.

Examples of learning activities

  • View a satellite image of the world showing its population distribution and use the thinking routine ‘What do you see? What do you think? What do you wonder?’
  • Describe the distribution of the world’s population using a current world map, with reference to specific regions and countries.
  • Write an extended response to the following question: ‘To what extent is there a spatial association between population characteristics on a global scale?’ In your answer, refer to two of the following population characteristics: birth rate, death rate, infant mortality rate, fertility rate, life expectancy.
  • Develop a glossary of key terms used in studying population dynamics.
  • Access a graph, or use an online visual database such as Gapminder, that shows the growth of global population from the 1700s until the present and describe the trend for the following periods: 1700–1900, 1900–1950, 1950 to the present.
  • Research key economic, social, political, environmental and cultural factors that have led to changes in global population growth, structure and distribution since the 1950s. Create a collaborative annotated timeline to describe these factors.
  • Read the UN report predicting global population growth since the 1950s. Identify and summarise the main predicted trends. The report can be found at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Population)

  • Example icon for advice for teachers
    Develop a portfolio of written analyses of population structure graphs.
  • View a YouTube clip summarising Malthusian theory and create an annotated sketch graph explaining the relationship Malthus espoused between population growth and environmental, social, cultural, and economic sustainability.
  • In pairs or small groups, investigate a series of case studies focusing on population movements in the last two decades. Case study examples could include examples of voluntary and forced migration, permanent and short-term population movement. Consider how the population movements have affected the population structures and social, environmental and economic conditions of the source and host destinations. Present findings to the class on an annotated map or using online spatial tools such as Google My Maps or ArcGIS online.
  • Discuss the reasons for differences in population structures and dynamics within a country: for example, differences between population characteristics of indigenous and non-indigenous populations, between rural and urban populations, and between refugee and non-refugee populations. Create a summary of these reasons with statistical evidence from specific countries.
Example icon for advice for teachers

Detailed example

Analysis of population structure graphs

This activity helps to (a) consolidate students’ skills in interpreting population structure graphs and (b) apply their knowledge of the Demographic Transition Model. It provides practice for the School-assessed Coursework task in data analysis.

Provide students with population structure graphs from countries with contrasting population characteristics: for example, Niger, Italy, Australia, Dubai, Japan and Brazil. Each student could be allocated a different country and then share their completed analysis with the class orally or online.

Students analyse the population structure diagrams using the following as a guide:

  • What proportion of the population is in each of the following groups: young dependents, economically active, elderly dependent?
  • Describe the trend in the birth rates over the last 20 years.
  • What conclusion can be drawn about life expectancy in this country?
  • Describe the proportion of males to females across different age groups. Is it consistent or are there any variations?
  • Identify any unusual features in the population structure. An extension activity could explore the explanation of these features.
  • Identify which stage of the Demographic Transition Model this country is likely to be in. Justify your answer with reference to death rates, birth rates and growth rates.
  • Sketch the predicted shape of this country’s population in the year 2040 if the birth rate were to remain stable for the next 20 years.

Suggested online sources:

Our World in Data

Population Reference Bureau


Unit 4 - Area of Study 2: Population issues and challenges

Outcome 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse the nature of significant population issues and challenges in selected countries and evaluate strategies in response to these.

Examples of learning activities

  • View a YouTube clip or news report highlighting issues facing a country with an ageing population or a country with a growing population. Discuss the major issues identified (for example, meeting the social welfare needs of an ageing population or providing education for a growing population) and the resulting challenges for that country.
  • Read an article about a country with a growing or ageing population. As a class, brainstorm the challenges this country could face when responding to this trend. Examples could include (among others): lack of economic development, high teenage pregnancy rates, high older age dependency rates.
  • Collect data from a site such as the United Nation Population Fund to create a series of pictograms about the population characteristics and dynamics of a country with a growing or ageing population. Population characteristics could include: population growth over time, growth rate, fertility rate, death rate, infant mortality rate.
  • Write an extended response about a country with an ageing or growing population. The response should:
    • identify and justify which stage of the Demographic Transition Model the population is in, using supporting evidence
    • explain how the country’s gender and age structure could create specific issues and challenges for it.
  • Use choropleth maps to describe the distribution of countries worldwide that have growing and ageing populations. Use this data to explain in what way the selected case studies’ populations reflect global population trends.
  • Draw an annotated sketch map of a country with an ageing or growing population to show the location and scale of population movement. This could include internal population movement (such as rural–urban migration) or external movement (such as outward emigration for work or inward refugee/migrant intake).
  • Create a collaborative mind map showing the interconnections between the:
    • main causes of population change in a country with a growing or ageing population: for example, political policies, changing status of women, economic development
    • key impacts of population change on people and the environment in a country
    • main issues to be addressed in the future.
  • Identify an issue facing a country with a growing population or an ageing population, such as the environmental impact of the growth of slums or the provision of pensions. Research a government and non-government strategy in response to this issue.
  • Develop and apply appropriate criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of two strategies used in a country to address a population issue, taking into consideration the environmental, economic, social and cultural impacts of the strategies.
  • Example icon for advice for teachers
    Investigate how local and state governments use geospatial technologies to respond to population issues.
Example icon for advice for teachers

Detailed example

Responding to population issues using census data and geospatial technologies

The purpose of this activity is for students to:

  • investigate how local and state governments use geospatial technologies to respond to population issues
  • evaluate the effectiveness of geospatial technologies in the development and implementation of these strategies.

Students apply this approach to a case study in Area of Study 2 (a growing or ageing population) using a case study of a local or state population issue.

Part A – The local or state population Issue

Brainstorm and identify current local or state population issues (for example, a suburban high school at full capacity, lack of public transport infrastructure in a new outer suburb of a city, loss of population in a regional town).

Divide the class into groups and allocate a local or state population issue to each group.

In the groups, students research their issue using the following guiding questions:;

  • What is the issue?
  • Why is it occurring?
  • What types of geospatial data would be needed to analyse this issue in order to devise a strategy to manage it? (Students should be specific here: for example, ABS data – no. of children under 5; or ABS data – no. of vehicles per dwelling).
  • What geospatial technologies would be used to collect and represent this data?
  • Why are geospatial technologies the most effective way to manage this population issue?

Each group prepares a brief to present to the local or state government authority, providing information on how they would use geospatial technologies to collect data and analyse the causes and impacts of the issue.

Part B – Presentation of findings

Students synthesise their findings into a five-minute brief that includes only five slides. Students present their slides and also provide peer-feedback for each other’s presentations, focusing on evidence and clarity of discussion.