Implementing Geographical Key Concepts: Design of a Symbiotic Teacher Training Course Based on Empirical and Theoretical Evidence


Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Germany


Teacher professionalization, in-service training, geographical key concepts, teacher beliefs, documentary method ,


A central desideratum for the professionalization of qualified teachers is an improved practice of further teacher education. The present work constitutes a course of in-service training, which is built upon both a review of empirical findings concerning the efficacy of in-service training courses for teachers and theoretical assumptions about the professional competences of teachers, conducted in two Federal States of Germany from October 2014 to October 2015. The course focuses on geographical key conceptscentral geographical (big) ideas that are systematically recurring, aiming at the promotion of conceptional learning within geography classes. By this means, they meet a major challenge of the field, facing a great variety of complex topics and the difficulty to support a cumulative construction of geographical knowledge. But there is little experience about the advantages and difficulties that occur by using the key concept approach in geography classes. Thus it is one aim of the in-service training to gain insights into the needs and potentials of geographical key concepts. That is why the teacher training course is labelled as symbiotic, as teachers learn about a new approach and supply practical experiences about it. The term symbiotic indicates a two-way learning process, as researchers thus can learn about the key concepts from a practical point of view. Hitherto, the weak efficacy of further teacher trainings is often criticised, taking into account inflexible teacher beliefs and a wide gap between theory and practice. Based on these considerations (professional competences of teachers, geographical key concepts, criteria for effective in-service training) this paper represents a first step of a study. On the one hand, a symbiotic in-service training course on geographical key concepts is introduced that might be capable to modify teacher beliefs, for example with respect to individual ideas of the subject-matter or the subjective theories about teaching and learning in geography classes. On the other hand, the expected practical experiences can help to identify obstacles for the use of key concepts in geography classes. At the end of this article an outlook on the study’s broader research interest and on the documentary method as a tool to meet these aims is given. Excerpts of first data available can illustrate the further research process.