Fieldwork is at the core of what Geography is, and I love it. However, fieldwork this academic year has the potential to consume hours of planning and teaching time when we are not at all time-rich right now.

The curriculum challenges that COVID-19 has brought to geography GCSE teaching has resulted in a reduction of a handful of questions in our exams, but ultimately the removal of no lessons from our curriculum maps. When it seems like other subjects are losing entire units and potentially gaining weeks of teaching time, it is no surprise that there are lots of frustrated and anxious geographers out there.

The big challenge we face is preparing students for unseen fieldwork questions when most students have little to no real first-hand experience of the enquiry process. I have some suggestions for how I think we can do this, making use of the Oak National Academy resources alongside this webinar that we recently ran for colleagues facing the same challenge.

Oak National Academy virtual fieldwork lessons

Our fantastic teacher Mel has created a unit of seven, exam-spec neutral lessons available on Oak to support your KS4 fieldwork teaching this year.

Fieldwork elements cannot easily be understood in isolation and it is challenging to deliver a full fieldwork narrative in class with students not following the “story” through themselves.

Therefore, the first fieldwork lesson introduces the enquiry process before leading students through this process twice with two different case studies to secure their understanding. To reduce cognitive load for students, the two case studies are based on the same location.

Making the resources work for you

All Oak National Academy resources are just that - a resource. If you do not like the case study, data collection method or explanation of a particular keyword, then you can adapt them as you wish. You are welcome to download the lesson slides from the Teacher Hub and edit them to whatever works for you and your pupils.

With my year 11s, I would have them complete the fieldwork lessons at home before coming back into class and having a series of consolidation and exam practise lessons. However, many schools who are concerned about homework completion rates are using the videos in class. I have also seen other schools successfully using a blended approach with the teacher leading a lesson and then pressing ‘play’ on the video lesson to have Mel deliver a particular point. Whatever works for you!

In the fieldwork lessons, pupils will:

  • Engage with the challenging fieldwork terminology repeatedly, e.g. reliability, qualitative data, risk assessment.

  • Engage with real fieldwork data.

  • Experience a broad range of geographical skills, e.g. maps, graphic literacy, statistical skills.

  • Complete and self-mark exam questions using model answers and clear feedback.

The Oak National Academy fieldwork lessons go a long way towards giving your students the full experience of the enquiry process.

To support your teaching of unseen fieldwork, we have created the following additional materials which you can find links to on our Support Hub:

The companion booklet:

Pupils can watch the video lessons and write their answers into this booklet which speeds up completion time, encourages greater engagement, makes a great revision resource, and gives exam practice with the two mini-mock exam papers at the end.

Exam questions and model answers:

The videos deliver the enquiry process, but this needs consolidation and exam practise in class. We have created a pack with dozens of exam questions and model answers from across the full range of exam boards to support this delivery.

All of the unseen fieldwork questions are useful to prepare students for any specification, but exam board specific questions are clearly labelled in the pack and you can easily delete any you don’t want to use.


COVID-19 has thrown so much at us as a profession, and as a subject. The changes to geography exams this year essentially amount to no reduction of teaching time because we are still delivering the fieldwork unit. The Oak resources can help.

Any virtual fieldwork resources are flawed. There is no substitute for standing in front of your students next to the river, seafront, or high street and leading them through their own enquiry. If you want a pupil to understand the concepts of reliability and accuracy of fieldwork methods, there is no substitute for them standing in front of you with a soggy data collection sheet, looking shifty because they know a group member fudged the last few measurements of the groyne to get to the fish and chip shop quicker. Ideally, they need that lived experience to understand fieldwork properly. But virtual fieldwork can bridge the gap for your pupils in a year where it’s the next best thing.

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