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AAG Receives NSF Grant to Improve K-12 Teacher Preparation

October 03, 2012

The AAG has announced a new “Geo-Capabilities” project to research and improve transatlantic collaborations in geography teacher preparation.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a grant to the AAG to conduct collaborative transatlantic research initially by geography educators in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Finland. Researchers involved in this effort are Michael Solem (AAG), Susan Heffron (AAG), Niem Huynh (AAG), David Lambert (Institute of Education), and Sirpa Tani (University of Helsinki). Richard Boehm, Director of the Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education at Texas State University, will supervise the project evaluation.

The “Geo-Capabilities” project will determine how geography contributes to the overall capabilities of K-12 students. The two major components of this project address capabilities (i.e., the principles of understanding topics like autonomy, human rights, citizenship, sustainable development, economy and culture).

The first component is an international comparative analysis of national geography standards, teacher preparation curricula and practices within the U.S., U.K., and Finland to determine how standards address the capabilities of students. The resulting synthesis report will illustrate for other nations how capability concepts can bridge divergent conceptions and practices in geography education and set the stage for international collaborations in teacher preparation.

The second project component will design and implement a workshop convening geography professors and recent graduates from pre-service teacher education programs in the U.S. and the EU. Informed by the outcomes of content analysis research performed in the first year, participants will identify and ultimately bridge differing national conceptions of geography as an academic discipline, what it means to “think geographically,” and the role of post-secondary teacher preparation in enhancing geographic education. Following the workshop, the participants will develop online educational resources that will connect pre-service geography teachers with international collaborative projects using the Center for Global Geography Education (CGGE) at the AAG. These educational resources will draw on an approach to curriculum development known as the “capability approach” to unify various national conceptions of geography in a way that enables aspiring geography teachers to engage the perspectives of their peers internationally as they develop expertise in the subject.

Geography plays an important role in everyday decision-making. Thinking geographically underpins the practice of asking questions that identify changing relationships between places, and communicate patterns observed at various scales. These questions become more complex when viewed through an international lens. This project, founded on international partnership, will enhance geographic education through teacher preparation workshops and freely accessible professional development resources. The new CGGE case studies and collaborative projects will connect pre-service teachers online to study and discuss important geographic questions in their respective nations and provide them with important opportunities for cross-cultural understanding and geographic learning in relation to capability principles. Eventually, the students of project participants will experience similar opportunities to attain international perspectives on geographic content emphasized in national standards. Together, these cross-cultural research and educational activities will facilitate the development of internationally connected teacher preparation programs rooted in sophisticated international geography perspectives.

For further information about the “Geo-Capabilities” project, contact the project director, Michael Solem at 


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