Europe and its Borders. A Mental Mapping Study with Secondary School Students from Central Berlin


  • Péter Bagoly-Simó Geographisches Institut, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany; MTA-SZTE Research Group on Geography Teaching and Learning, Szeged, Hungary.
  • Johannes Graaf Geographisches Institut, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • Ádám Tóth MTA-SZTE Research Group on Geography Teaching and Learning, Szeged, Hungary
  • Anett Kádár MTA-SZTE Research Group on Geography Teaching and Learning, Szeged, Hungary


Recent experiences with mass migration moved the debate on borders to the forefront of debates in society and schools. Students might have had very different experiences with borders, particularly in super-diverse urban environments. Nevertheless, research on students’ knowledge of European borders is relatively mod-est. This paper aims to make a first contribution to exploring lower secondary students’ mental representa-tions of Europe both in academia and schools. Using mental mapping as a method, the study explored how 45 students in central Berlin represented Europe and its borders. The results show alarmingly limited knowledge of Europe and the European Union. Also, Europe as a cluster of nation-states seems to be the dominating perception. Consequently, borders of nation-states dominate the representations. Using the di-agnostic utility of mental maps, the study also uncovered alarming results on students’ spatial cognition and map skills.


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