Validating Sketch Mapping as a Method for Evaluating Geographic Knowledge

label  Validating Sketch Mapping as a Method for Evaluating Geographic Knowledge

  • Objectives and Methods to Be Employed:

Drawing maps is a common and intuitive method for communicating spatial information and knowledge.  In support of navigation, as a tool for teaching and learning geography, for expressing of what is known about the world, or simply to display a local environment and communicate geographic relationships, maps are compelling and useful constructs. In geography, and cognate disciplines, researchers often employ sketch maps to collect data at scales ranging from one’s immediate surroundings (rooms and buildings) to the entire world. Teachers often employ map drawing as a tool for teaching geography and to help students learn about different parts of the world. Sketch maps can provide data that can be enumerated empirically or evaluated qualitatively; there seems to be little question that sketch maps are a useful means of expressing and understanding spatial knowledge.

This research will examine the role that drawing ability, artistic aptitude, and spatial memory play in the ability to portray geographic knowledge on sketch maps. This project will use an experimental design to integrate a well-established psychometric tests of drawing ability and spatial memory with several geographic sketch mapping tasks. The sketch mapping tasks, which involve different levels of drawing ability and geographic memory for completion, include a free sketch map of the world, labeling countries from memory, and labeling countries from a list. We will then analyze the main effects and interactions among the principal independent variables to determine the extent to which non-geographic drawing ability impedes or supports the communication of geographic knowledge. GIS and spatial statistical tools will be used in addition to traditional statistical tests (ANOVA and factor analysis) to add to what we know about each participant’s geographic knowledge of the world. The use of GIS to better understand maps drawn by hand is in its infancy while the application of spatial statistics such as spatial autocorrelation and cluster mapping even more emergent. The experiment will include undergraduate students at the University of Saskatchewan.

  • Intellectual Merit:

Sketch mapping is a popular and widely-used technique for measuring a broad range of geographic and non-geographic knowledge, attitudes, and emotions. Most sketch maps involve the production of spatial figures through drawing or other similar means of production (using drawing software, for example). Unfortunately, a thorough scientific evaluation of the role that drawing ability and spatial memory play in one’s ability to communicate or represent geographic knowledge has not yet been conducted. This research will attempt to fill that void. The results of this research will provide an improved understanding of how much of the geographic knowledge stored in an individual’s cognitive map is made apparent in a sketch map, as well as how to best analyze and interpret the outcome of sketch mapping tasks in general.

  •  Broader Implications:

Sketch maps are employed by both academic and applied researchers as well as professionals working in a variety of social, economic, political, education, and health fields. Drawing maps is a powerful tool for communicating what is known and felt about the world; they allow for communication that is free of jargon and can support communication between and among individuals and groups that do not share a common language. By increasing what we know about the role played by drawing ability, arguably the most confounding variable in the production of sketch maps, this research will contribute to the discourse of best practices in sketch map use and will improve the interpretation of data collected from sketch mapping tasks.