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National Council for Geographic Education

Geography Education Research In Progress

The threefold purposes of “Research in Progress” is to inform the geography education community of research currently underway, create networking opportunities among scholars, and identify potential funding sources for geography education research.  In addition, with the publication of A Road Map for 21st Century Geography Education: Geography Education Research (Bednarz, Heffron, & Huyhn 2013), scholars now have the opportunity to locate their research within the larger framework of a national research agenda.  Geography education scholars (including students) at any stage in the research process are encouraged to contribute to “Research in Progress.”

Each submission should include a project title, which of the thirteen Geography Education Research recommendations (see Bednarz, Heffron, & Huyhn 2013, pp. 56-61) the research addresses, and a 200-250 word abstract of research in progress.  If the research has been funded, scholars are also asked to include the name of the funding agency.  Submissions should also include the scholar’s name, title, affiliation and email address.  Please submit abstracts to the NCGE Vice President for Research, Dr. Susan Hume at shume@siue.edu.

 

An Analysis of Teacher Satisfaction with Online Professional Development in Geography


This research addresses Road Map Research Recommendation 3: The Committee recommends research to investigate the characteristics of effective geography teaching.

The purpose of this research is to analyze the effectiveness of, and teacher acceptance and satisfaction with the online professional development series, Geography: Teaching with the Stars (“Stars”). Aimed to increase the pedagogic content knowledge of geography, social studies, and Earth science teachers (middle school and high school levels), “Stars” offers best practice strategies and techniques for use in the classroom. “Stars” is able to overcome locational barriers of access to high quality professional development because of its online accessibility and flexibility of use. ‘Stars’ is available at www.geoteach.org.  This research is partially funded by NCGE's E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Grant for Research in Geography Education.

Carmen Brysch, Ph.D Candidate
Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education
Texas State University
 

Assessment of GIS Students’ Spatial Concept Knowledge and Reasoning


This research addresses Road Map Research Recommendation 3: The Committee recommends research to investigate the characteristics of effective geography teaching.

One of the hardest things in an introductory-level GIS course for instructors is to teach two different groups of students in terms of experience in GIS. The first group is composed of students who are new to GIS; in contrast, the students of the latter group have already enrolled in other GIS course before or had some work experience in relation to GIS. Although the two groups might have different struggles and trajectories in learning, there has been little attention paid to what knowledge and skills for spatial thinking they bring to the classroom. I teach the concepts and applications of spatial thinking to graduate students in an online introductory-level GIS course in each of the fall, spring, and summer semesters in 2012 and 2013. In the related exercise, students construct a concept map that explains spatial concepts and draw a flow chart that represents a simple GIS model. I examine how students’ concept maps and flow charts are different between the two groups and 

if there is significant difference in their scores. I hope that the results of the study suggest that a concept map and a GIS modeling flowchart might be used in assessing spatial concept knowledge and reasoning, particularly for GIS.

Katsuhiko "Kirk" Oda, Ph.D.
Spatial Sciences Institute
University of Southern California

 

APHG: Impacts on Interest in Geography, Choice of Major and Career Development


This research addresses Road Map Research Recommendation 7: The Committee Recommends that geography education researchers follow established principles for scientific research in education and that they collect data scientifically from large samples of students in schools, other natural learning environments, and laboratory settings; and 8: The Committee recommends researchers develop and study exemplary programs, curricula, tasks, measures, and assessments to build the body of knowledge about effective geography teaching and learning.

The social learning theory of career decision making connects skill development through learning activities (such as coursework) to the pursuit of a particular career. The APHG course has been promoted by academic geographers as an opportunity for recruitment of geography majors in higher education. Participation in APHG exams in the US has increased from 3,272 in 2001 (the first year APHG course was offered) to 98,679 in 2012. However, whether this increase results in an increased interest in college geography courses, a growing number of geography majors, and geography careers has not been fully examined. Only one survey in 2001 reported that 20 APHG students out of 100 students sampled stated they would consider majoring in geography in college. This study reports on the impacts of taking APHG course at high school on students’ interest in college geography courses, choice of major, and career development.  An online survey was conducted at Texas State University-San Marcos and Texas A and M to collect data (Texas has ranked second in APHG exam takers in the past few years with an average increase of 73% each year).  The results of the survey provides valuable information to academic and professional geographers for the development of geography curriculum in high schools, insight into the impacts of APHG on geography major recruitment in higher education, and the influence of APHG on geography career development.

Micheal Scholz, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Geography, Texas State University
ms1791@txstate.edu

 

Teaching Introductory Weather and Climate Using Popular Movies


This research addresses Road Map Research Recommendation 3: The Committee recommends research to investigate the characteristics of effective geography teaching.

Addressing the need for an introductory atmospheric science course for non-science majors, a course was developed that provides a general understanding of atmospheric processes by examining how meteorological events are portrayed in movies. The course also uses films to study the causes of, impacts associated with, and potential adaptations to climate change. Student performance indicates that this approach is effective in educating students. Moreover, anonymous student course evaluations indicate that this course is very popular, a finding which is supported by increasing enrollment figures.

Donald M. Yow, Associate Professor
Department of Geography and Geology, Eastern Kentucky University
Don.Yow@eku.edu

 

Master’s Degree Programs in Geographic Information Systems


This research addresses Road Map Research Recommendation 8: The Committee recommends researchers develop and study exemplary programs, curricula, tasks, measures, and assessments to build the body of knowledge about effective geography teaching and learning.

As a part of Phase II of the Association of American Geographers’ Enhancing Departments in Graduate Education Project (2009-2013) we are investigating  directions and challenges of  Master’s Programs in Geographic Information Systems. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation DRL 091004). In 2011, the Association of American Geographers Guide to Graduate Programs listed 25 such offerings. Our research focuses on the rapid rise and continued growth of MS GIS programs, their similarities and differences to each other and from traditional master’s degree programs in geography in the United States.  Some are integrated into traditional departments others separately organized (e.g. through Continuing Education Programs).  Having identified the range of programs, we created a 50 percent sample selected to represent i) mode of delivery (on site, online, or a mix of methods) and ii) a variety of geographic locations. Our methodology involves interviews with program directors (in person or by phone) to explore program history, mode of delivery, the size, range, and composition of student body (traditional, employed persons, local, national, international), institutional funding models and student costs, faculty involved, (including in-house faculty and use of outside professionals), and curricula. We pay attention to the integration of technical and “soft” skills in the curricula (e.g. writing, presentation, project management, ethics). We explore what directors see as challenges. The diversity of MS GIS programs as well as their difference from traditional programs point toward a new style that challenges us to think differently about the future of graduate education in geography.

Chris Lukinbeal, Assistant Professor and Director MS GIST Program
 School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona
chris.lukinbeal@arizona.edu

Janice Monk, Research Professor
School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona
Senior Associate, Association of American Geographers
jmonk@email.arizona.edu

 

Profiling Masters Programs in Geography in the US


This research addresses Road Map Research Recommendation 8: The Committee recommends researchers develop and study exemplary programs, curricula, tasks, measures, and assessments to build the body of knowledge about effective geography teaching and learning.

As a part of Phase II of the Association of American Geographers’ Enhancing Departments in Graduate Education Project (2009-2013) I am investigating the nature of masters degrees in geography in the US focusing on institutions where this is the highest degree offered. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation DRL 091004. I am examining programs in Departments of Geography and in interdisciplinary units such as Geography and Planning or Geography and Environmental Studies. To date, little research has addressed practices or outcomes of master's education in any discipline despite the recent magnitude of such awards (in geography, about 80% of graduate degrees).I am developing a broad profile by interpreting information presented on the websites of some 60 institutions. The research examines the types of degrees offered (e.g. MA or MS  in Geography, MA in Applied Geography; MS in Environmental Studies), the size and scope of faculty, of student bodies, the stated program goals (preparation for  applied careers or for future graduate work or both), the variety of specializations, the nature of curricula; and the outcomes for graduates. Where data are available, the analysis will identify the subsequent employment of alumni. The research aims to stimulate more attention to challenges and prospects for master's education in the discipline and to explore the relationship between stated goals and practices.

Janice Monk, Research Professor
School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona
Senior Associate, Association of American Geographers
jmonk@email.arizona.edu

 

GeoCapabilities: An International Approach to Researching and Improving Teacher Preparation and Leadership in Geography


This research addresses Road Map Research Recommendation 5: The Committee recommends that research about teacher preparation in geography be conducted with the goal of determining what is needed to produce educators able to understand and teach for student mastery of the content and practices of geography; and 6: The Committee recommends inderdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches, drawing on relevant research results.

GeoCapabilities is a research project currently led by the Association of American Geographers (AAG) with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation. The project's aim is to research the potential of improving curriculum making in geography through trans-Atlantic and trans-European collaborations in teacher professional development. 

The capabilities approach provides a theoretical framework for understanding the broader aims of geography in education and how these aims may be shared internationally, despite differences in the scope and sequencing of geography curricula. To date, the GeoCapabilities project has developed a methodology to analyze and compare geography standards in the U.S., England and Finland. The pilot analysis produced case studies showing how geography education potentially contributes to the development of three human capabilities:1. Promoting individual autonomy and freedom, and the ability to use one's imagination and to be able to think and reason; 2. Identifying and exercising one's choices in how to live based on worthwhile distinctions with regard to citizenship and sustainability; 3. Understanding one's potential as a creative and productive citizen in the context of the global economy and culture.

The full report will be available at www.aag.org/geocapabilities on April 1, 2013.

Michael Solem, Ph.D., Director of Educational Affairs
Association of American Geographers
msolem@aag.org