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Annalotta Dessen Jankell

About me

In April 2017, I began my doctoral studies in geography didactics. I also work as a teacher in geography, biology and science and with education of geography teachers.

My research interest is focused on the design of geography teaching on complex sustainability issues in an intertwined world. How geography teaching can contribute with tools that students' can use while investigating complex sustainability issues through modeling.

Together with teachers in upper secondary school, I have developed and empirically tested a teaching design, where students are stimulated to investigate a complex sustainability issue with the help of something we call a "system-geographical model". The model is based on systemic principles combined with geographical concepts, such as place, scale and spatial relations.

One reason for trying system principles and system modeling in geography teaching is that systems as an idea focus on understanding connections, relationships and the whole. Thus a core of a geographical knowing.

Another reason is that there is a need in society to develop the ability to understand how humans affects other humans and living organisms at different places on earth. Especially in relation to climate change and the major system changes required. According to the UN, systems thinking is an important key competence.

A third reason is that the subject of geography, with its interdisciplinary approach, bridging natural science and social sciences, has been listed as a particularly important school subject for the development of systems thinking. As a consequence, the systems perspective has been given a more prominent role in the curriculum for geography in GY11 and will be further strengthened in the forthcoming curriculum in 2025. However, there is no tradition in Sweden of how the idea of ​​systems can be used practically in geography teaching. In Germany, systems as a didactic idea are much more projected and research is also underway there (see Mehren et al, 2017), as in the Netherlands (Cox et al, 2019). But it is still limited. In other subjects such as biology, systems as an idea in educational design are much more prominent. I am therefore most curious about whether and, if so, how the systemic idea can work together with geographical ideas as a way for students to deal with complex sustainability issues.

My research therefore wants to contribute with knowledge about; What does it imply to learn to handle systemic principles as a tool in the analysis of complex geographical issues? What learning is made possible and what characterizes a teaching where system-geographical relations are explored, analyzed and interpreted?

I use a practice theoretical approach and Learning Activities (Davydov, 2008) as the didactic framework for my research design and analysis of learning. I also use analytical tools developed by Radford (2015) to analyse the actualizing of different aspects of system-geographical ability and relational knowledge.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Powerful Geographical Knowledge and Students’ Understanding of Global Migration in Times of ‘Crises’

    2018. Johan Sandahl, Lotta Dessen Jankell.


    This study examines Swedish students’ understanding of migration in the aftermath of the European “refugee crisis” and discusses what subject resources geography education might contribute with in order to understand global migration. Previous research on young people’s knowledge on migration is limited, but studies show that students are strongly influenced by media reporting which they internalise with own lived experiences. The data consist of 51 accounts on global migration and demonstrate a narrative of migrants as refugees. Departing from Michael Young’s (2013) concept of “powerful knowledge” we discuss how geographical thinking might advance students’ understanding beyond their everyday experience. The contribution is twofold: it gives educational insight into young people’s understanding on migration and discusses the possibilities of subject resources.

    Read more about Powerful Geographical Knowledge and Students’ Understanding of Global Migration in Times of ‘Crises’

Show all publications by Annalotta Dessen Jankell at Stockholm University