2018 Conference

National Center for Research in Geography Education (NCRGE)
Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education (GCGE)

2018 Conference

Powerful Geography

San Jose, Costa Rica

november 1-4, 2018

Conference Theme:

What makes geography “powerful” for teachers, students, and society?

The concept of Powerful Geography has its roots in an international research collaboration known as GeoCapabilities (www.geocapabilities.org). This research has attempted to define those elements of geography that have high analytical, interpretive, and explanatory ‘power’, and what this offers both to an individual’s well-being and to society as a whole.

Powerful Geography is concerned with the relationship between geographic knowledge and the challenges, opportunities, and freedoms young people stand to gain in life. A Powerful Geography curriculum based on principles of human development and powerful disciplinary knowledge enables young people to think in specialized and distinctive ways about the myriad social and environmental problems defining modern times. This capability afforded by geography education is an argument for ensuring all students have an opportunity to learn geography in such a way as to achieve personal goals, ambitions, even jobs and careers.

While capacity for geography education varies considerably from country to country, many shared challenges include a pronounced shortage of teachers with geography backgrounds; uneven access to high quality instructional materials and technologies; a lack of research data and evidence-based practices; public perceptions of geography education as offering little more than trivial facts about the world; and a lack of support from government agencies and other important stakeholders.

The 2018 NCRGE/GCGE Conference aimed to advance our understanding of Powerful Geography and its potential in education by bringing together a diverse delegation of geographers, geography educators, professional geographers, and education researchers in other disciplines. We had papers, panels, and posters related to the conference theme that explore issues and topics such as:


Submissions that illustrate the multiple ways geography develops human capability and prepares the future workforce across business, government, and nonprofit sectors. Presentations will explain and guide participants on how geography can contribute to inform society and promote a new geography for greater appreciation of our Earth and way of life.  Potential topics include:

  • Significance of Powerful Geography for workforce development.
  • Balancing education for capability development and competency/skills training.
  • The role of Powerful Geography in decision-making, from local communities to international policy.
  • Engaging educational practitioners and policymakers in Powerful Geography.


Submissions that provide opportunities for participants to learn effective teaching practices and teacher training procedures that implement good acquisition of knowledge in geography. Potential topics include:

  • Introducing powerful geographic knowledge in initial teacher education programs.
  • Engaging non-specialist geography teachers in principles of Powerful Geography.
  • Approaches to embedding Powerful Geography in curriculum standards and frameworks.
  • Aligning curriculum standards, instructional materials, and assessment practices.
  • Innovative technology-based pedagogy, including teaching and learning with geospatial technologies.


Submissions that focus on creating strategies to develop capabilities in young people to be active participants engaged in new geographical thinking. Crucially, these strategies should inspire a diverse student population and broaden participation in the discipline and workforce. Potential topics include:

  • Connecting Powerful Geography instruction with the needs and aspirations of a diverse cadre of students.
  • Bridging research in the learning sciences with broader aims and purposes in education.
  • Identifying teaching methods that engage students in linking geographic thinking and useful career applications.
  • Role of mentors and industry professionals in demonstrating the value of geographic education to business, government, and industry.



  • How can Powerful Geography improve the geographic learning found in Geography for Life (2012)?
  • How can we address learning in Powerful Geography in a class of extraordinary diverse students?
  • What are the relationships between Powerful Geography and the social studies, particularly the C3 Framework and the Inquiry Arc?
  • Why is a “bottom-up” curriculum framework in geography more useful than a “top-down”?
  • What is meant by what Wesley Null calls a liberating curriculum?
  • What is the logic for developing national geography standards AND state geography standards?
  • Why does Powerful Geography demand vertical alignment?
  • Why do “top-down”, one size fits all curriculum frameworks fail to encourage useful geography teaching and learning?
  • What are the employment profiles in your state for those with geography backgrounds and degrees?
  • How do we overcome structural problems in pre-service certification programs in geography?
  • Why did the national geography standards fail to provide curricular guidance in schools?


The GeoCapabilities project originated in 2012 as a transatlantic collaboration between the U.S., England, and Finland. Since that time, the project has inspired a robust and extensive international dialogue about the potential and significance of powerful geographic knowledge in the lives of young people. There is currently a remarkable range of GeoCapabilities-related activity in the Netherlands, Sweden, China, Japan, India, Germany, Portugal, Serbia, Czechia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and beyond.

In that spirit, we invite contributions from geography educators from around the world who have been developing research, curriculum studies, and teacher training innovations related to the themes of the Powerful Geography conference.

Conferencia 2018
Conference Wrap Up / Conclusión de la conferencia 
Schedule and Program / Calendario y Programa
Keynote Speaker / Orador principal
Field Trips / Viajes de campo
Conference Organizers / Organizadores de conferencias
Gallery / Galería