Undergraduate Students' Declarative and Configurational Understanding of Biomes




Acheson, Gillian
Beilfuss, Meredith

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The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education


Student's alternative conceptions in physics and chemistry content have been researched in recent years but equivalent research in physical geography has not been published. This research is important because most alternative conceptions begin in a person's early years and persist into adulthood. In the present study twenty-six interviews were conducted with introductory, nonscience majors at a large, research university in the Midwest. Students marked locations on a world map that corresponded to biomes, such as desert, rainforest, grassland, and tundra. Content analysis suggests that students hold a number of misconceptions about the spatial distribution of these phenomena on Earth. Spatial knowledge, ranging from declarative (prior knowledge) to configurational (knowledge of the relationships between and among locations), was observed among the students surveyed. The wide range of understanding observed has implications for teaching physical geography from a causal perspective.



geography, biomes, misconceptions, geography education, spatial thinking


Acheson, G. & Beilfuss, M. (2010). Undergraduate students' declarative and configurational understanding of biomes. Research in Geographic Education, 12(1), pp. 64-79.


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