Powerful disciplinary knowledge and the status of geography in Finnish upper secondary schools: Teachers’ views on recent changes

Sirpa Tani, Hannele Cantell, Markus Hilander


The article examines the status of geography education within Finnish upper secondary schools. During thepast few years, there have been many reforms which have affected how much geography ought to be taughtand the teaching methods for doing so. In this article, the general aims of the upper secondary geographyand content of the compulsory geography course are analysed from the perspective of powerful disciplinaryknowledge. The empirical data set was collected through an online survey, which was filled out by 63 Finnishgeography teachers in September 2017. The results show that even though the compulsory course in geographywas regarded as being important and student-oriented, teachers felt that there were too many geographicalphenomena to teach and too many time-consuming digital methods to be used. Teachers highlightedthe importance of critical reflection and geographical thinking in the aims of geography curriculum,and they had a positive attitude towards emphasis on current issues in the compulsory course. Many respondentsexpressed their concern about the fragmented character and the illogical structure of the course.The compulsory course has its focus on global risks and therefore, students have to study the consequencesbefore the causes. The required information on physical and human geography is studied later in optionalspecialisation courses, which the respondents saw as a major problem. Overall, even when the aims of thecurriculum support the ideas of powerful geographical knowledge relatively well, limited time for studiesin geography threatens students’ access to powerful knowledge in geography education.


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