Characterizing Teaching Practices in Introductory GIS Courses with Classroom Observation Protocols

Authors: Christopher Krause*, University of South Carolina
Topics: Geography Education, Qualitative Research
Keywords: gis education, classroom observation, teaching practices, teaching beliefs
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 20
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Assuming teaching practice influences students’ understanding, a primary tenet of educational constructivism, the need arises to identify and describe teaching practices within GIS classrooms. Common methods to characterize teaching practices include self-reported teaching practice inventories, student evaluations, and classroom observations.

Classroom observation protocols (OPs) have “become increasingly popular, since they provide the most direct and reliable measures of teaching practices” (Lund et al., 2015). Classroom OPs are developed to assess specific instructor and student behaviors and can broadly be classified as either holistic or segmented. Holistic OPs use a class period as the unit of analysis; after observing a class period, the entirety of the observation is evaluated by a set of detailed descriptions using a Likert scale. Segmented OPs record behaviors in brief periods of time, commonly 2-minute intervals.

Over the course of two semesters, six introductory GIS instructors at two institutions were repeatedly observed using both a holistic OP, the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol, and a segmented OP, the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM. Observations were videotaped so that measurements with the different OPs could be later compared and the reliability of the OPs analyzed. To contextualize the observed teaching practices, each instructors’ teaching practices were examined alongside their self-described teaching beliefs obtained in pre- and post-semester interviews and their personal reflections recorded contemporaneously after each classroom observation. This study represents one of the earliest (if not the first) attempts to characterize classroom practices in introductory GIS courses using OPs.

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