Case Study Limitations

Limitations of the approach

Although most of the lessons were effective and students appreciated them, an extensive list of factors limits students’ access to/development of PDK. These are, primarily, factors related to students, teachers, school and curriculum system and out of school environment.

Firstly, a GeoCapabilities approach could not transform all students’ overall engagement in learning, specifically in learning geography. The question of motivation is often related to the attractiveness of the topic / problems to be solved and the meaningfulness perceived by the students. Whilst the project showed a GeoCapabilities approach improved levels of engagement and motivation, this remains a barrier.

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Teacher-related limits result from the lack of teachers’ time to develop lessons in a powerful way and from their professional expertise. This includes their disciplinary knowledge, ability to recontextualise academic geographical knowledge and some teachers’ perceptions of their students’ abilities – teachers should be aware that PDK development is not only for higher attaining students but can be accessible to all.

The specific circumstances of each school, including sometimes restrictions from school management (e.g., to avoid sensitive topics in the lesson) as well as the level of commitment to curriculum development across school culture, has a bearing on how far the GeoCapabilities approach can have impact.

The system and curriculum-related limits include the time and space dedicated to geography lessons and the ‘strictness’ of curricula. The stricter (less flexible) curriculum leaves little freedom and responsibility for schools and teachers, there is no space for teacher-led curriculum development nor the professional development of curriculum making expertise by individual teachers.

Moreover, there is a perceived lack of time in teaching programmes to study individual issues deeply as exam pressure influences the lesson content. Key textbook content was seen as a limit to the adoption of the GeoCapabilities approach by some teachers as it tended toward one type of knowledge (e.g., Type 2 according to Maude’s typology) making it more difficult to develop a F3 curriculum.


The out of school environment includes families, social media, the internet etc., that influences students’ attitudes, specifically their social representation and possible prejudice, and can restrict students’ open thinking in this regard. School interventions can develop capabilities, but the young person’s knowledge and values are formed in multiple settings.

Finally, we should consider the way the project enhanced teachers’ expertise. All developed their migration-related curriculum, including new lesson plans and conceptual and practical tools.

They developed their curriculum and lesson plans by more precisely specifying lesson content (specifically the PDK) implementing innovative ways of teaching and evaluation and balancing focus (e.g., spending more time to reflect on the taught curriculum). The project boosted teachers’ professional development in subject-specific knowledge, skills, and pedagogy..

Teachers updated and deepened their knowledge in the field and started to think critically about their teaching in innovative ways – they received support to reflectively think about what they do and why.

One of the most considerable added values of the project was sharing experiences regionally, nationally, and internationally. In many cases, this experience opened their eyes (and minds), gave them support for innovative ways of teaching and positively influenced their self-confidence. In some cases, this was perceived as a springboard to the teacher’s further engagement in the collaborative geography teacher community.