Strategies used by small student groups to understand a geographical mystery


  • Jan Karkdijk Calvijn College, Goes, The Netherlands
  • Joop Van der Schee Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences, VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Wilfried Admiraal Leiden University Graduate School of Teaching, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands


Relational thinking in geography is often complex, due to the interdisciplinary character of the subject and the many relationships between human and natural systems. We explored the strategies of twelve small groups of students in upper secondary education in the Netherlands as they attempted to understand a regional problem presented as a mystery. Four different relating strategies were found. The six low-performing groups on the mystery assignment employed different relating strategies from the six high-performing groups, who primarily used a webbing strategy. The findings suggest that a webbing strategy, focused on the establishment of multi-causal relationships, is more successful in tackling complex assignments in geography such as understanding regional problems.


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