Research projects in Geography and Environmental Education

Our group conducts research on a variety of topics related to geography and environmental education, both in Finland and within international collaborative networks.

Ongoing research projects

Envisaging Sustainable Futures via Powerful Knowledge: Disciplinary, Cross-Disciplinary and Everyday Knowledge in Geography, History and Social Studies Education (PowerKnow) 

Rapid increase in information and misinformation, as well as political polarization have increased the importance of reliable knowledge and critical thinking for envisaging sustainable futures as a solution for emerging ecological and social crises of today. This research project investigates how sustainable futures can be understood in the domains of geography, history, and social studies education by combining disciplinary, cross-disciplinary and everyday knowledge. The project conducted at the University of Helsinki produces data in the form of teacher and student interviews, classroom observations as well as educational materials and documents. The project generates 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.

Project leader: professor Sirpa Tani.

Read more on the project homepage.

Utopia Project

What are utopias and what can they offer for people today? The core of utopia is about being otherwise. Utopias are about exploration of the conditions and meaning of good life and human flourishing. Our research group examines what kind of pedagogy could advance youth civic engagement in the era of the ecological crisis when humanity is crossing the planetary boundaries.

Participating researcher: Associate Professor Hannele Cantell.

Read more on the project homepage.


Knowledge and Quality across School Subjects and Teacher Education (KOSS) Network

The KOSS network brings together three cross-disciplinary educational research groups, rooted in several academic disciplines from Sweden, Finland and England. The research groups ROSE (Research on Subject-specific Education), SSRG (Subject Specialism Research Group) and HuSoEd, Research Community for Humanities and Social Sciences), will seek to understand how educators and education systems can ensure that school-based knowledge building reaches its transformative potential. In our work we draw upon the concepts ‘powerful knowledge’ and ‘epistemic quality’ to help us understand the qualities that knowledge building has when it is effective and empowering and to help us understand how educational processes can build and develop these properties.

Project leader in Finland: Professor Sirpa Tani.

Read more about HuSoEd and KOSS.

Read more about KOSS on the Karlstad University website.


Past research projects

GeoCapabilities: Teachers as Curriculum Leaders

GeoCapabilities shed light to how geography as a school subject enhances ‘human capabilities’. The project embraced diversity in how geography is understood and expressed in national school standards and in teacher training in Finland, Belgium, England, Greece, and the USA. Professor David Lambert (Institute of Education, University College London) acted as the programme coordinator. GeoCapabilities was an EU (Lifelong Learning) funded programme.


Principal investigator: Professor Sirpa Tani.

Read more on the project homepage.


Dwelling with the City: Children and Young People as Participating Residents

Dwelling with the city was a four-year research project funded by the Academy of Finland as part of its research programme The Future of Living and Housing. The objective of the project was to produce in-depth understanding of the ways in which young people grow co-existing with their everyday life environments.

Project leader: Professor Sirpa Tani.

Read more on the project homepage.