What is GeoCapabilities?

GeoCapabilities is a project applying a human capabilities lens to the discipline of Geography.

The GeoCapabilities project is supported by the idea of powerful disciplinary knowledge‘ (PDK).

Review the presentation on geographical knowledge

Geocapabilities: identifying geographical knowledge

Knowledge therefore consists of ‘knowing that’ and “knowing how”.

Huckle (2017) summarises this in the following Table:

knowledge is:
Geography’s five powerful knowledge types are:
Evidence based abstract and theoretical (conceptual) part of a system of thought dynamic, evolving, changing — but reliable (`testable’ and open to challenge) sometimes counter-intuitive exists outside the direct experience of the teacher and the learner discipline based (or at least in domains that are not arbitrary) (GCP, 2017d) Knowledge that provides students with ‘new ways of seeing the world’; knowledge that provides students with powerful ways to analyse, explain and understand the world; knowledge that gives students some power over their own knowledge knowledge that enables young people to follow and participate in debates on significant local, national and global issues; knowledge of the world.
(Maude, 2016, 2017)


The GeoCapabilities project envisages that thinking about educational goals is also important, specifically the role of education in giving pupils access to what we call powerful geographical knowledge. That is knowledge of the world that they cannot access from home.

The school curriculum

GeoCapabilities is concerned with the school curriculum, as the school curriculum (including geography) enables young people to think beyond themselves and their everyday experiences. It thus contributes to the ‘substantive freedoms’ available to young people. That is for example freedom in
● thinking,
● making good choices and
● making decisions about how to live.

Essentially, it is about teachers thinking carefully about a range of ideas as they develop classroom activities for pupils.

Teachers need to consider:

  • the needs of their pupils,
  • the nature of the topic itself and
  • how they will establish pedagogy helping their pupils to engage with the knowledge.

In the context of teaching Geography, this is summarised in the following diagram (click image to enlarge):

Curriculum making diagram

This implies specialist teachers are necessary to take the lead in developing the geo-capabilities of their students so that they have the possibility to play an active role role in society