The aim of this research project is to investigate how sustainable futures can be envisaged in the domains of geography, history, and social studies education by combining disciplinary, cross-disciplinary and everyday knowledge. The key concept of the project is ’powerful knowledge’, which refers to knowledge that is systematic and specialised, often specific to discipline-based school subjects. The project team will revise this concept by exploring the intersections of disciplinary, cross-disciplinary and everyday knowledge.

The project is structured around three research questions: 

  1. What kind of futures do the school subjects of geography, history and social studies project, and how can each subject help in envisaging sustainable futures? 
  2. How can young people’s everyday knowledge and their expectations of the future be employed in subject-specific and integrated education?
  3. What kind of boundary-crossing concepts and topics do geography, history and social studies share and can they form a powerful integrated curriculum to envisage sustainable futures? 

These questions will be studied in three work packages: 

  1. Powerful Disciplinary Knowledge and sustainable futures in national core curriculum and learning materials concerning Geography, History and Social Studies
  2. Young people’s everyday knowledge, sustainable futures, and education
  3. Powerful Cross-Disciplinary Knowledge and sustainable futures in curriculum making and teaching praxis in Finland and Norway

Empirical research will be conducted in schools, in which both students and teachers will participate; data gathered in schools consist of focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, photo-elicited interviews, think-aloud protocols and researchers’ observations. Secondary data will include policy documents, national curricula and learning materials. The three work packages and a multidisciplinary research team will produce new conceptualisation of powerful knowledge and explicate its relevance at the policy level, but also for schools and for teacher education. The project produces approaches with which teachers can plan and develop disciplinary-based and cross-disciplinary teaching and use students’ everyday experiences in their teaching. This can support students’ active role in the learning process and thus increase their ability and interest to envisage paths towards a more sustainable future.

Only if you do not think there is ‘better knowledge’ that all have a right to, would the principle of social justice reject the entitlement to specialized powerful knowledge through the curriculum.
(Young & Muller, 2013)