Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Robert Sharpe

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Only within the past few years has the diffusion of geographical information systems (GIS) technologies made their way down the educational ladder. Until recently GIS was largely restricted to the confines of upper year university and college programs in Canada. Over time, the instruction of GIS has made its way towards first and second year post secondary students. Recently, GIS has been gaining popularity within the High School curriculum and continues to filter its way down the educational hierarchy. This thesis covers two major areas pertaining to GIS in education. The first area deals with the literature pertaining to GIS, how it is used in education, but more importantly the major pedagogical challenges facing educators using GIS in their classrooms. Several key pedagogical challenges are presented as well as a variety of other issues associated with the use of technology in the classroom. The second major area covered is the assessment of technology in the classroom. Within this area the theoretical background for the assessment of technology is built. In addition, the model used within the thesis is introduced and detailed. This section acts as the starting point for the case study by introducing the theory behind assessment and parallelling that with the practical application of that theory—the case study. The case study is the driving force behind the thesis. A professionally developed research instrument was employed to survey 348 students across various levels of education. The survey is used to gauge pedagogical practices associated with the “seven good practices for teaching” in undergraduate education. A group of pedagogical practices were selected to assess the effectiveness of using GIS in the classroom. An initial summary analysis of the data was conducted to explore the data set and to gain an better understanding of the dynamics present in the various students surveyed. This initial summary consists mainly of frequencies and mean values to determine if at a basic level the use of GIS is effective. These basic summary statistics paint a picture where GIS advances the teaching and learning environment. From these results it can be concluded that at a general level GIS is an effective teaching aid. A second set of analyses were conducted which focussed on several relationships identified in the literature as being the main pedagogical issues. Mean composite scores for the pedagogical practices and a set of technological indices were created to explore these relationships. The data revealed that there is little difference between the genders when it comes to the results shown in the pedagogical practices. ln addition, a series of correlations were generated to analyse how the pedagogical practices compare with each other and the technology indices. Finally, individual classrooms were analysed to isolate any differences between classrooms (context). It is at this level that the majority of variation within the data set appeared. At a general level the use of GIS is shown to be effective, however, at the classroom level this conclusion cannot be made as quickly. Several classrooms showed very high scores on the indices and composite scores, revealing that in these classrooms GIS is fostering an effective teaching and learning environment. A smaller set of classrooms did not score as well. Within these classrooms the GIS was not shown to be entirely effective. The context level of analysis reveals great differences in GIS effectiveness.

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