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How do children progress in their knowledge and understanding of geographic and spatial concepts? What are the influences of maps and geospatial technologies in that learning process?

Questions of this nature were at the heart of a recent workshop hosted by the AAG’s GeoProgressions project, funded by the National Science Foundation to build capacity for researching learning progressions in geography.

The GeoProgressions workshop, held from October 9-12, 2014 at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., prepared 28 participants to carry out research on learning progressions related to maps, geospatial technology and spatial thinking. The participants met for panels and smaller breakout sessions for discussion and training activities on the following topics:

  • Definitions of learning progressions with examples from geography, math and science education.
  • Discussion of relevant research on spatial cognition, map learning and GIS education.
  • Materials and procedures that can be used to develop a hypothesized learning progression, for example:
  • Approaches to constructing samples and assessment items for quantitative studies.
  • Demonstration of how to perform validity tests of research instruments.
  • Demonstration and practice of qualitative methods, including clinical interviews.
  • How to interpret quantitative and qualitative data.
  • Common errors, issues and obstacles in learning progressions research.
  • Strategies for working with teachers and students in K-12 classrooms.

The workshop sessions were led by a group of geography, math and science education researchers with expertise in learning progressions and spatial thinking. Most of the workshop leaders also contributed chapters to a handbook produced by the GeoProgressions project entitled, Learning Progressions for Maps, Geospatial Technology, and Spatial Thinking.

Moving forward, the workshop participants will formulate plans for researching learning progressions in geography. Their work will be coordinated by the National Center for Research in Geography Education (www.ncrge.org), a research consortium committed to the advancement of basic and applied research in geography education at all levels. Researchers at more than 30 universities in the U.S. and abroad are currently partners in the NCRGE research coordination network.

For more information about the GeoProgressions project and to access videos from the workshop, please visit www.ncrge.org/projects/geoprogressions or contact the project director, Dr. Michael Solem (msolem [at] aag [dot] org).