Research in Geographic Education

Permanent URI for this collection

The journal, Research in Geographic Education, publishes significant research-based manuscripts and other important contributions in geographic education. As a field of research, geographic education covers a wide range of topics, including spatial cognition, perception, applications of learning theory, applications of instructional methodology, and assessment of student achievement, to name just a few. Therefore, the editors of the Journal evaluate a wide range of manuscripts reporting scholarly research and practice completed by faculty members, classroom teachers, independent scholars, and senior level graduate students. The Journal represents all segments of the research community in geographic education, including senior, mid-career, and new researchers and teachers and graduate student researchers, who are engaged in active research about learning and teaching. In order to achieve those goals, we encourage and welcome submissions of papers. We review papers within the editorial staff initially, followed by a peer review by topical specialists in geography education. The editorial staff will work with you to publish a manuscript that contributes significantly to geographic education.

Journal website:


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 261
  • Item
    Locating Tile Drains Using Historic Air Photos
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2013) Green, Jerry; Pierce, Jeff; Sanders, Jana Farrell
    Land is one of the most important natural resources. Water, minerals, and biological elements are often taught explicitly as resources, with little reference to the land itself. Land use and modifying the land for greater advantages for human use has been underway for millenniums. Changing the hydrology and water content of soil has been an important part of land resource modification and land use since the early 1800s in the United States. During subsequent times, land owners, land managers, and land developers have used drainage systems to change land surface moisture conditions in order to alter land use practices. Poor documentation on drain location and development activities on such drained lands often lead to disrupted subsurface drainage systems and consequent surface land use problems. Land use planners and land developers need to know alternatives to identifying where these subsurface drains are located to avoid such problems. This research presents a method of locating subsurface drain tiles using historical air photos. Using this approach, problem areas can be identified and potential land use issues averted.
  • Item
    A Critique of the Standardization of Geography Education in Germany
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2013) Dickel, Mirka
    The preparation and adoption of national standards among many countries has been a common practice during the past three decades. This paper presents a critical analysis of the Standards for German Geography Education published in 2006, as well as, a broader critique of standardization in education. The discussion is set within the context of the educational reform movement in Germany over the past decade. The analysis presents critiques from both philosophical, as well as, practical perspectives, and cites instances where standardization and its effects on education fail to address meaningful content in geography for students, teachers, and society. The article delves into the important questions that address the meaning of education. While attention is devoted to Germany education, the articles raise thoughtful questions and discussion that can be asked about the process of educational standardization in other countries.
  • Item
    Geographic Challenges in the 21st Century
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2013) MacLeod, Douglas G.
    No abstract prepared.
  • Item
    [Book Review] Geography in Secondary Schools: Researching Pupils' Classroom Experiences
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2012) Milson, Andrew J.
    No abstract prepared.
  • Item
    The "Greening" of Campuses in Higher Education and K-12 Schools: The Value of Experiential Learning for Sustainability
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2012) Blanchard, Denise; Cmiel, Brian
    Institutions of higher education have been involved in campus sustainability programs and activities since the 1970s; however, increasingly, schools in K-12 education have become involved in aspects of the green movement, such as energy efficiency and high performance building design, to facilitate sustainability on their campuses, as well. This interest at the elementary and secondary levels of education is mainly promoted by two relatively recent comprehensive programs: the United States Department of Education's Green Schools Initiative (GS]), and the nationwide, online Green Ribbon Schools (GRS) program (USDOE, 2012). The goals of this research were twofold: 1) to assess how students and administrators at campuses in higher education engaged in sustainable programs and practices; and, 2) to observe the creative activities of teachers and students in K-12 education toward campus sustainability. To achieve our first goal, we created a list of 10 criteria that defined a sustainable campus and applied them to a sample of 23 universities having approximately equal enrollment. Two-thirds engaged in half or more of our ten criteria. The two most frequent were: evidence of student organizations dedicated toward environmental causes; and, whether the universities included sustainable policies in their Master Plans. Alternative energy programs and a commitment to reduce emissions on campus were also important. The second goal of observing campus sustainability for K-12 schools called for examining the website of the GRS program, the original award and recognition program for K-12 schools. Of730 registered schools, 68, or about 10% were green ribbon award winners in 2011, the majority emanating from Texas, with California schools, second. Though the GRS program is comprised of four cornerstones, we only observed the "EcoCampus" cornerstone to remain consistent with the aims of the research. The majority of projects focused on recycling/waste," and "energy." A case study of an elementary school that developed curriculum using the "building as a teaching tool" is presented and illustrates how this school incorporated STEM concepts and lifelong learning. Overall, this research concluded that no matter the scale, size, enrollment of an institution of education, nor level of education, that a growing number of educators, students, and administrators are participating in sustainability activities on campus to achieve short-term efficiencies and savings, as well as, long-term benefits toward educating the next generation of environmentally-aware, and conservation-minded citizens.
  • Item
    [Book Review] Why Geography Matters: More Than Ever (2nd ed.)
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2012) Morrill, Robert W.
    No abstract prepared.
  • Item
    The Course Syllabus as a Guide to Map Interpretation Instruction
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2012) Green, Jerry; Henry, Mary; Skryzhevska, Liza; Toops, Stanley
    Map interpretation skill development in geography is faced with declining opportunities; however, most introductory textbooks have the content to support developing these skills. This paper investigates the extent to which map interpretation is found in introductory geography courses by reviewing 77 syllabi from Internet sources and direct inquiry, and 20 responses, which resulted in an additional 30 syllabi, from a nationwide online survey sent to geography instructors who taught at 4-year universities. Map interpretation was most frequently found in physical geography syllabi followed by human geography, regional geography, and general geography. Our findings indicate that map interpretation skill development is not widely incorporated in introductory courses, however, the syllabi did not always adequately portray the course content and, thus, it would be more useful for assessing the general level of map interpretation skills in geography if syllabi were more informative to the broader community.
  • Item
    Geography and General Education: The Nexus of Roles in Post-Secondary Education
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2012) Harper, Robert A.
    No abstract prepared.
  • Item
    How Study Abroad Programs Impact a Students' Futures: A Western Michigan University Case Study
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2012) King, Ashley A.; Hallett, Lucius, F., IV
    This study assesses study abroad programs at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to examine the lasting effects on students' careers, as well as, their personal and social development. Given the consistent increase in students studying abroad, it is important to know how and in what ways these experiences are affecting futures. Through a study of survey data collected from past participants in study abroad programs over eight years at Western Michigan University, we analyze whether significant effects developed for students regarding: language fluency and use, academic achievement, cultural development, personal growth, and professional attainment, as well as, how their study abroad experience impacted their lives following graduation. The findings, through gauging the quality of students' experiences, will assist administrators and coordinators in study abroad programs in higher education towards designing future programs and assessing the potential for success of that design and the long-term impact on participants.
  • Item
    Indications of the Influence of Teacher Training on Standards-Based Middle School Geography
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2011) Cooper, Catherine W.
    Since the 1994 publication of Geography for Life: National Geography Standards, which specifies what students in American schools should learn and be able to do with regard to geography, educators have questioned the extent to which the national standards' framework or grades K-12 has been incorporated into state standards documents, and then subsequently, adopted by teachers and included in their classroom instruction. Using a survey design of a sample of middle school teachers throughout the State of Maryland, this research examined the degree to which a significant difference exists between the intended geography curriculum developed at the state level and informed by the national standards, and the geography curriculum actually taught in classrooms. In addition, this research tested the degree of association between teaching specific standards and teachers' formal and informal training, as well as, between teaching specific standards and other explanatory variables related to their classroom preparations. Findings suggest the need for additional preparatory training of teachers in geography standards as well as opportunities for targeted professional development in applying standards in the classroom. This research further suggests that, creation of a "geography study community" might be useful for teachers who might need assistance for understanding geography content within the broad context of the discipline's overarching themes.
  • Item
    Examining the National Geography Standards for Presence of Spatial
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2011) Marsh, Meredith J.
    The publication of Geography for Life: National Geography Standards (GESP, 1994) proved to be a milestone event in the recent history of geography education in the United States. While this document is certainly comprehensive in scope, early analyses of its effectiveness and implementation has revealed areas for improvement. Building on these concerns, a content analysis of Geography for Life was conducted using a comprehensive list of 22 geography concepts developed in a 2005 Ontario, Canada standards study by Sharpe and Huynh. The research was performed in two parts: Part 1 applied the expanded set of 22 Ontario concepts to Geography for Life with the aim of discovering the degree of emphasis in U.S. standards between basic "object and process" geography and concepts associated with higher levels of "spatial thinking." A secondary goal in Part 1 was to observe the extent to which differences might exist between Ontario and U.S. standards. Part 2 investigated a different set of 16 geospatial concepts - developed from the author's experience in teaching a college-level introductory human geography course, and by reviewing other related materials - to examine the extent to which these 16 concepts might also be found in various grade levels in the national standards. Part 2 questioned the assertion that simple concepts appear more often in early grade levels, while more complex ones appear later in the K-12 continuum. The content analysis of Part 1 revealed definite strengths in the U.S. geography standards in terms of its areas of emphasis on higher level spatial concepts, as well as, basic geography concepts. The Ontario standards differed with an emphasis on concepts related to "geomatics," (geographic information science) which did not appear in the U.S. standards. Findings from Part 2 were generally as expected, encouraging for instructors of higher education geography courses; however, findings from this research also indicate that more research is needed on the effectiveness of the national standards, not only for K-12 education, but for the geographic and spatial knowledge that students carry on to higher education.
  • Item
    New Geography Curriculum Reform of Middle Schools in China
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2004) Min, Wang
    China began new curriculum reforms in 2000. The reform changed the focus of geography from its traditional subject centered curriculum to permit the adoption of an integrated curriculum. The changes also emphasize elementary innovative spirits, practical capability, scientific and cultural accomplishment, and environmental awareness. Basic knowledge, skills, and methods suitable for lifelong learning are the general goals of the reform in middle schools and have influenced Chinese education deeply. The purpose of this paper is to report on three facets of the reform movement: 1) how it affected the curriculum in general; 2) the plan for implementation; and 3) the influences on textbooks.
  • Item
    GIS Instruction: Learning From Student Perception of Concept Difficulty
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2011) Huynh, Niem Tu; Dean, Nathaniel
    The focus of this study is on students' perceived difficulty of GIS concepts and this research is guided by three related research questions: 1) What are students' perception(s) of the difficulty level of geography and GIS concepts?, 2) What patterns of student perception, if any, exist?, and 3) How do the findings inform instructional strategies in a GIS class? The analytic process drew on two mathematical approaches, multidimensional scaling (MOS) and minimum spanning tree (MST). These analytic methods project and compare the data spatially which allows for a visual assessment of the emerged clusters. The preliminary findings identify groups of simple and complex concepts and suggest instructional strategies. Two trends are evident from the results. The first is that students generally agree on the difficulty level of concepts; those ranked more similarly are grouped within a cluster. For example, students found data manipulation (e.g., categorization of data, identification as spatial/non-spatial), geodesy, datum, coordinate systems, geocoding, and neighborhood functions especially difficult. The second trend is that concept clusters are loosely aligned with overall student performance. For example, students do better on concepts they rank as "easy" compared to those they perceive to be "difficult" although anomalies exist. The practical application of the results is to devise in-class exercises that add meaning to theoretical topics and to engage students with hands-on activities.
  • Item
    Concept Mapping Validates Fieldwork's Capacity to Deepen Students' Cognitive Linkages of Complex Processes
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2011) Allen, Casey D.
    Concept maps created by introductory physical geography students were analyzed to assess the power of a field index in students learning concepts related to rock decay. Students (n = 571) were randomly selected from introductory physical geography laboratory sessions where 86% had never taken another college-level geography course, 46% had never taken a "lab science" course, and 22% were from minority (non-white) populations. All students, upon completing a straight-forward demographic survey and open-ended questionnaire, undertook a concept mapping exercise after learning about rock decay through direct instruction (i.e., lecture). From this n, 322 students also took part in a hands-on field-based experience involving analyses of rock decay associated with petroglyphs, and then completed another concept map. Concept map scores indicate field experience participants understood form and process connections better after the field experience than after direct instruction, and especially minority students, where the average score increase approached 23%, compared to 11 % in non-minorities. Female students (16% average increase) also scored higher after the field experience compared to male students (11 % average increase). Concept maps were compared to open-ended questionnaires to further establish validity, and after testing for normalcy with Kolmogorov-Smimov, t-tests revealed all score increases to be highly statistically significant (p < 0.001), with minority student score increases compared to non-minority increases yielding a statistical significance (p < 0.01), while learning in females over males yielded a statistical trend (p = 0.067). These findings reveal fieldwork's power to deepen cognitive linkages between complex biophysical processes and the corresponding landscape forms, especially among minority and female students.
  • Item
    [Book Review] Geography, Education and the Future
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2011) Keller, Kenneth H.
    No abstract prepared.
  • Item
    Disciplinary Divergence and Convergence in the Content of Introductory Undergraduate Coursework in Geography
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2011) Rutherford, David J.
    While some geographers assert that the variable, diverse, and wide-ranging content focus of geography produces a problem of disciplinary disunity and lack of coherence, many geographers argue that geography is a discipline of synthesis whose content focus is of secondary importance to its unifying perspectives. This tension between diverse content focus and synthesizing perspectives appears particularly noticeable in introductory undergraduate courses in geography. While observers have noted widely differing content foci across the three most widely taught introductory undergraduate courses (human geography, physical geography, and world regional geography), no systematic empirical research has documented the differing content foci of these courses or identified the extent to which these courses may incorporate synthesizing perspectives. The research reported in this paper utilized a theoretically informed empirical approach to identify the content foci and synthesizing perspectives that were present in these introductory courses during the mid-2000s in the United States. Formal curricula, in the form of course syllabi for the three introductory courses were subjected to a rigorous and replicable content analysis that identified subject matter content and synthesizing perspectives in these three courses. Overall results show the existence of ( 1) limited commonality of subject matter across the courses, particularly between physical geography courses and the human and regional courses, and (2) a small set of subject matter items and disciplinary perspectives that are common across the courses. Detailed results provide nuance to these overall results and additional insight. The results suggest ways that instructors can not only teach the specific content focus of each course but also introduce students to perspectives that can serve to unite geography as a coherent disciplinary approach. In addition, by drawing from theory, this paper suggests ways that these results can contribute to overcoming the divide that exist across the overall discipline of geography and help to "engineer the synergies that are now latent" in the discipline (Abler, 1992, p. 224 ).
  • Item
    [Book Review] Aspiring Academics: A Resource Book for Graduate Students and Early Career Faculty.
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2011) Wilson, Sigismond A.
    No abstract prepared.
  • Item
    Using Geography to Help Teach History: Dual-Encoding History Lesson Plans
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2011) Tabor, Lisa K.; Harrington, John A., Jr.
    How can we teach more and better geography within the school system? Given the dominant role of history in the K-12 social studies curriculum, use of the psychological theory of dual-encoding to integrate geography and history lesson planning is one approach to bring more geography into the classroom. As part of the Kansas Geographic Alliance's programmatic activities, Kansas' geography and history standards were examined for development of dual-encoded educational units. Five units, each containing four lesson plans, were developed. Three workshops were delivered to share the newly developed materials. Attendees at the workshops provided assessment and feedback on the unit plans. Participant feedback indicates that dual-encoding is helpful, and, thus, the integration of history and geography using this method is likely to result in considerable progress for increased geography in students' education. Not only will the knowledge provided demonstrate the impact and significance of geography to history teachers and their students, but dual-encoded lessons might also advance teacher content and pedagogical knowledge. Most importantly, however, a dual-encoded approach to classroom teaching of geography and history will improve the learning of both subjects.
  • Item
    Geographic Education for Preschoolers: The Dora the Explorer Contribution
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2011) Carter, James R.; Diaz-Wionczek, Mariana
    We propose that the preschool show Dora the Explorer contributes to geography education by introducing the use of a map on every episode, demonstrating a significant step in teaching preschoolers about maps and map use. Furthermore, we suggest that the format in which the map is presented supports learning, allowing it to serve as a cognitive organizer. This program is an important component in the development of geographic concepts and skills of children aged two to five. Because the show is seen by millions of preschool children around the world every day, it seems apparent that Dora provides geographical experience and background for these young viewers and will enhance the start of their formal education. Therefore, to assess the contribution of Dora the Explorer, we propose some research questions that might be addressed to assess the contribution of this show to the geographic education of preschoolers.
  • Item
    Using a Classroom Observation System to Analyze Content and Inquiry in Physical Geography
    (The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, 2011) Ruhf, Robert J.; DeChano-Cook, Lisa M.
    This study examined the extent to which two undergraduate physical geography teaching modules are aligned with national science teaching and learning standards and inquiry-based approaches to learning. These modules, which were implemented at a mid-sized university, were designed for both general education and pre-service elementary education students. The modules addressed the topics of differential heating and the Beaufort wind scale. Observations of teaching methodology were recorded in the physical geography classroom lecture and inquiry sessions as they were taught. These recorded observations were then analyzed and coded using a Lesson Observation System that is based on teaching and learning standards and inquiry based approaches to learning. Ratings data obtained from the System provide evidence that the two modules were taught with a high degree of consistency following the recommendations of the standards. The modules provided authentic examples to elementary and secondary education students of physical geography topics taught using an inquiry-based and standards based approach. Pre-service teachers should benefit from models of inquiry presented in a similar manner.