Geographical perspectives strengthened by GIS in an interdisciplinary curriculum: Empirical evidence for the effect on environmental literacy and spatial thinking ability
Chun, Bo Ae
MetadataShow full item record
Although Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have been favorably received as innovative and exciting tools in environmental education recently, there is a paucity of research into their effectiveness in enhancing meaningful learning in geography and related sciences, and also in studies that address how students learn GIS in the classroom. The primary purposes of this study were first to investigate how students' learning of attitudes and knowledge about the environment were affected when GIS-integrated place-based environmental education was introduced. Secondly, the study also aimed to find evidence of the effectiveness of GIS in improving the student's spatial thinking ability. The Children's Environmental Attitude and Knowledge Scales (CHEAKS) were adopted to measure the temporal differences in the students' environmental attitudes and knowledge before and after the intervention of three different treatment conditions: the control group; the GPS-integrated fieldtrip activities group; and the GIS-integrated lessons and GPS-integrated fieldtrip activities group. Results of data analyses from the pre- and post-test indicated that students displayed a moderately favorable attitude toward the environment, but their attitudes were not greatly changed by environmental education, regardless of the types of methods used in this study. Although all students' knowledge of environmental issues increased after instruction in the three groups, the intervention of both GIS-integrated lessons and GPS-integrated fieldtrips was more effective than either GPS-integrated fieldtrips or non-GIS instruction. The results have some implications in the design of a curriculum for GIS-integrated interdisciplinary lessons. In order to maximize the effect of integrating GIS technology into the classroom, it is necessary to combine GPS fieldtrips with GIS lessons, instead of adding just GPS fieldtrips to the traditional environmental curriculum. Although a fieldtrip with a GPS device is also a good source of place-based learning, students are able to visualize the local data and look up the database behind the geo-visualization when a GPS fieldtrip is implemented with GIS lessons. The present study displayed the effect of GPS-integrated fieldtrips on the students' learning in a passive manner due to practical constraints. I had to work with intact groups and only three classes were available which were taught by the same instructor. Thus, a further study involving the administration of GIS-integrated lessons without GPS fieldtrips could reveal the effect of GPS-integrated fieldtrips. In addition, investigation of the compound effects of GIS-integrated lessons and GPS-integrated fieldtrips may be required to fully comprehend the determinants of students' spatial thinking abilities. To identify and evaluate the effect of GIS-integrated lessons on spatial thinking and geographical skills, students' conversations with their partners were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using discourse analysis. Students were interviewed and maps and posters were also examined to provide a full account of the context in and beyond the classroom. Results based on the students' conversations can be summarized as follows: students' collaborative learning and metacognition are not directly influenced by GIS-integrated lessons. That is, the amount of time students are exposed to GIS-integrated lessons session by session does not, on its own, motivate students' collaborative learning or metacognition. Rather, the instruction design seems to have a more significant effect on collaborative learning and metacognition. More active learning occurs when GIS is integrated with a student-centered class instead of a teacher-centered one. With regard to the effect of learning-with-GIS as compared with learning-about-GIS, the results reflected that learning-with-GIS classes seem to contribute to students' GIS learning almost equally or more than in learning-about-GIS classes even though any specific GIS functions are not intentionally stressed or taught. Students also perceive a series of GIS functions as a type of procedural knowledge such as data collection and data input, data input and data storage and retrieval, and data manipulation and data output. Findings based on the interviews, maps and posters revealed that the students' environmental conceptions were dramatically changed in terms of their awareness of connectedness regarding the idea of watershed. The lessons developed for this project also prove effective while using a watershed as an organizing principle. Moreover, the lessons of the present study are strengthened by GIS, which give students great control over spatial thinking and geovisualization.