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GeoCapabilities (Phase 1): A Framework for Understanding the Purposes and Values of Geography Education


GeoCapabilities (Phase 1) was a research project led by the American Association of Geographers (AAG) with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation's Geography and Spatial Science program (Award # BCS-1155255). Collaborating organizations included the Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education at Texas State University, the Institute of Education in London, the University of Helsinki, the European Association of Geographers (EUROGEO), and the Geographical Association.

The aim of GeoCapabilities was to construct a viable theoretical framework for a productive international dialogue on teacher education in geography. This framework draws heavily on the “capabilities approach” to education as inspired by the ideas of economist Amartya Sen and philosopher Martha Nussbaum. Capabilities are concepts which have been used as measures for human development and capacity (e.g., it inspired the Human Development Index which is a composite measure of income, education and life expectancy). In the context of geography education, the approach asks teachers, as curriculum leaders, to reflect on the role of geography in affording people with intellectual, moral, and existential capabilities for lifelong learning, economic and social agency in citizenship, and the pursuit of personal well-being.



David Lambert, Michael Solem and Sirpa Tani (2015). Achieving Human Potential Through Geography Education: A Capabilities Approach to Curriculum Making in Schools.  Annals of the Association of American Geographers. DOI: 10.1080/00045608.2015.1022128

Michael Solem, David Lambert, Sirpa Tani (2013). Toward An International Framework for Researching the Purposes and Values of Geography Education.  Review of International Geographical Education Online. 3 (3).


GeoCapabilities is now in a Phase 2. For current project activity, visit


For more information about the GeoCapabilities project, please contact Dr. Michael Solem


July 2016: New GeoCapabilities website for teacher training

June 2015: AAG Annals article, "Achieving Human Potential through Geography Education: A Capabilities Approach to Curriculum Making in Schools"

June 2014: GeoCapabilities newsletter launched

May 2014: New GeoCapabilities website 

March 2014: AAG newsletter article about GeoCapabilities.

December 2013: Article reporting the results of GeoCapabilities Phase 1 is now available in the journal, Review of International Geographical Education Online (RIGEO). Download the article here

December 2013: Project launch for GeoCapabilities - Phase 2, funded by the European Commission's COMENIUS program.

June 2013: The first progress report for GeoCapabilities is now available. The report covers major activities and findings during the period July 2012 - June 2013.

Full report (PDF)

Appendix A: England (PDF)

Appendix B: Finland (PDF)

Appendix C: United States (PDF)

Video presentation (16:30)




Beijing Normal University and East China Normal University (March 2014)

AAG Annual Meeting (Tampa, Florida: April 2014)

EUROGEO (Vallarta, Malta: May 2014)

IGU Congress (Krakow, Poland: August 2014)



EUROGEO (Bruges, Belgium: May 2013)

Nordic Geographers Conference (Reykjavik, Iceland: June 2013)

European Conference on Education (Brighton, UK: July 2013)

International Geographical Union Regional Congress (Kyoto, Japan: August 2013)

EUGEO Congress (Rome, Italy: September 2013)

International Symposium on Contemporary Trends in Teaching and Learning Geography (Cluj Napoca, Romania: October 2013)

Workshop on Preparing a GeoCapable Student (National Institute of Education, Singapore, November 2013)

Society for Research in Higher Education (Newport, Wales: December 2013)