Cartography and Children

Children's Mental Thinking

4105.1 - Cartography teaching and the development of spatial thinking in Brazilian geography textbooks

Tuesday, July 4
8:30 AM - 8:50 AM
Location: Virginia C

The author of this paper is one of many researchers who believe that cartography taught in school has great importance for the development of spatial thinking among students in K-12. This dimension of intelligence is crucial for citizenship and for the practice of many professional and daily activities. Considering such a framework, the main goal of this research is to assess the contribution of geography education and school cartography in Brazilian middle school to enhance student’s capacity to think spatially in situations that encompass spatial representations, specially cartographic ones, in geographical contexts.
Our methodology was based the analysis of the three most adopted geography textbooks sets for the four years of Brazilian middle school (6th to 9th grades) with the purpose of assessing in which extent the exercises in those books are capable of fostering student’s spatial thinking. To assure the possibility of comparing our results with some other investigations we decided to use a methodology that was strongly based on the Taxonomy of Spatial Thinking, designed by Injeong Jo and Sarah Bednarz (2009). The authors engineered the taxonomy in an effort aiming to provide a valuable tool precisely to assess the contribution of textbooks for the development of spatial thinking. They used their tool to evaluate university world geography textbooks in the United States and, a few years later, Scholz, Huynh, Brysch e Scholz, (2014) employed the same methodology with high school geography textbooks in the U.S. In our methodology, we have also considered the important contributions of Phil Gersmehl (2014) to the field.
Using such a valuable taxonomy enabled us not only to evaluate if the questions demanded or not the use of the spatial thinking by the students. It also showed us the three general levels of reasoning involved, allowing to discern between low, intermediate and high levels of spatial thinking.
Our data reveals that the activities and exercises present in the geography textbook sets designed for Brazilian 6th to 9th grades are not prioritizing the development of students’ spatial thinking. Our analysis pointed out five main causes to explain this scenario:
1) Small number of questions involving the connection between the three elements of spatial thinking.
2) Reduction in the amount of questions involving spatial thinking throughout the 6th to 9th grades.
3) Low cognitive level demanded by questions that effectively operate with spatial thinking.
4) Inconsistent distribution of cognitive level of the number of questions that require the spatial thinking throughout the 6th to 9th grades.
5) Very high proportion of questions that only require the student's ability to locate phenomena in a cartographic representation.
It is our understanding that those results and the related analysis will encourage teachers to be aware about the need to design more thoughtful questions addressing the issue of using cartography for the development of spatial thinking and will help then with the task. We do believe that it can cause the same effect on geography textbook authors.

Ronaldo Goulart Duarte

Professor
University of the State of Rio de Janeiro

Graduation and Master degrees in the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Phd degree in the University of São Paulo. The main academic field is focused in Geography Education, specially concerning the topics related to the teaching of cartography in basic and middle school and the urban space as a key topic to develop spatial and geographical thinking. For the last 15 years, has been involved with beginners teachers training, teaching courses for the future geography teachers as a professor in the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro. Wrote a few geography textbooks for basic and high school.

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José Jesús Reyes Nunez

Associate Professor
Eotvos Lorand University, Faculty of Informatics, Dept. of Cartography and Geoinformatics

José Jesús Reyes Nunez is Associate Professor at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary. His research interests lie in Cartography for Children, Geovisualization, GIS-based Cartography, Web Cartography and Pre-columbian Cartography. Author of more than 20 articles in scientific publications and more than 50 papers in different events. Responsible for the organization of the Barbara Petchenik Map Competition in Hungary from 1999 and President of the International Jury in 2005 and 2007. He was Chair of the ICA Commission on Cartography and Children from 2007 to 2015, currently Vice-Chair . ICA awarded him with the Diploma for Outstandings Services in 2015.

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