Student- and School-level Predictors of Educational Achievement in Geography, 1994 - 2018

Authors: Michael Solem*, National Center for Research in Geography Education
Topics: Geography Education
Keywords: Geographic content knowledge, geographic skills, secondary schools, achievement gaps, multilevel modeling
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 29
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A fundamental goal of educational research is to advance knowledge of how and why achievement varies across different groups of students as well as between schools, states, and countries. In the context of geography education, there is a shortage of large-scale empirical studies involving inferential statistics and sampling designs that enable researchers to make generalizable claims about learners and learning. This undermines efforts to improve the quality and status of the subject in schools. To address this research need, the National Center for Research in Geography Education organized an interdisciplinary team to conduct a study of student achievement in geography using restricted data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The goal of the study was to estimate the magnitude, direction, and statistical independence of student- and school-level predictors of geography achievement at the eighth grade over a period spanning five NAEP geography reports and major national efforts to reform geography education in schools. Although a few school-level factors were statistically significant in certain years (e.g., school racial and ethnic composition, region, and urbanicity), only student-level predictor variables were found to be statistically significant across every assessment. The article concludes with recommendations for further research to advance knowledge of factors associated with geography achievement, with the longer term aim of moving the field toward more definitive and necessary causal research.

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