UNDERSTANDING ELEMENTARY TEACHER-STUDENT SPATIAL LANGUAGE DURING A GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS (GIS) LESSON
Teaching and Learning
Spatial thinking is a central component of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) performance that can be improved with experience (Uttal et al., 2013). One powerful tool for boosting spatial skills is experience with Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which is a software designed to analyze geographical data in multiple layers (Fitzpatrick & Maguire, 2000). Previous research has shown that the implementation of GIS with high school students improves their ability to solve community problems (Kersi et al., 2013). Spatial skills also increase in middle school students who participate in GIS activities (Baker & White, 2003). Importantly, Jadallah et al. (2017) documented improvement of spatial thinking among elementary students with GIS training. Teachers led lessons using the Quantum GIS program in which students used geoprocessing tools to manipulate spatial maps and solve problems. Elementary students showed gains in spatial skills following GIS lessons relative to standard social studies lessons. An important next step is to understand how GIS lessons might improve spatial skills. One potential mechanism is spatial language during classroom interactions. The goal of our naturalistic observation was to understand the role of spatial language in elementary students and their teachers while engaged in GIS lessons. We focused on one GIS lesson completed over 18 social studies class periods in three fifth grade classes in an urban, under-resourced school district. The goal of the lesson was to find the best location to plant a new tree on the state capitol grounds (adapted from Jadallah et al., 2017). Classroom discourse was transcribed verbatim. We used a spatial language coding system to quantify spatial language, including locations, spatial dimensions, continuous amount, deictics, spatial features, shapes, patterns, and orientations (Cannon et al., 2007). We also coded GIS and geography words. Spatial language accounted for 9.35% of teacher language and 9.60% of student language. Overall, GIS words-such as geoprocessing, layer, buffer, union-were the most frequently used spatial words among teachers (3.13%) and students (3.53%). Locations and directions-such as far, near, down-were the next most frequent category (2.26% and 2.36%), followed by deictics such as here, where (1.24% and 1.09%), continuous amounts (.59% and .66%), and spatial dimensions (.36% and .32%) for teachers and students, respectively. Patterns, shapes, geography words, spatial features, and orientations were quite infrequent for teachers and students. Our findings confirm that spatial language is an important part of elementary classroom discourse.
Hernandez, Rosaury and Miller, Barbara, "UNDERSTANDING ELEMENTARY TEACHER-STUDENT SPATIAL LANGUAGE DURING A GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS (GIS) LESSON" (2019). University Research Symposium. 190.