CAREER: Teaching and Learning Social Science Inquiry and Spatial Reasoning with GIS

This research project aims to explore and understand how geographic information systems (GIS) can be used to promote and teach spatial thinking and social science inquiry skills. It addresses the research question: What are effective teaching practices using GIS to teach spatial thinking and social science inquiry in middle-school and undergraduate classrooms? This program will study the effectiveness of teaching practices for social science instruction with GIS in urban public schools for specific learning objectives.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
0953448
Funding Period: 
Thursday, April 1, 2010 to Thursday, March 31, 2011
Full Description: 

This research project aims to explore and understand how geographic information systems (GIS) can be used to promote and teach spatial thinking and social science inquiry skills. It addresses the research question: What are effective teaching practices using GIS to teach spatial thinking and social science inquiry in middle-school and undergraduate classrooms? This program will study the effectiveness of teaching practices for social science instruction with GIS in urban public schools for specific learning objectives.

The research plans to develop an empirically-grounded framework for studying the ways teaching practices with GIS interact with four other foci of research: (1) learning objectives for inquiry skills and spatial reasoning, articulated across grade levels; (2) learning processes with GIS; (3) GIS curriculum designs; and (4) the design of GIS tools for learning environments. The project plans to use the GIS tools within a culturally relevant curriculum unit for diverse students of African American and Latino backgrounds.

A range of research methods will be used to study teaching and learning, focused on a common topic: American Migrations of African American and Latino populations over time, using GIS-mapped census data. Research will be conducted in three phases: (1) design experiments iteratively developing a theoretical framework, curriculum, and instructional strategies; (2) case studies of effective instruction at two levels; and (3) curriculum evaluations. Findings on effective teaching and learning in middle school classrooms, with undergraduate college students, and pre-service elementary teachers via GIS based-curriculum, will be presented.

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