Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Geographic Knowledge and Values Survey: Report of Results for the United States

The American Geographical Society (AGS) conducted a nationwide survey of public attitudes toward and knowledge about geography. The survey ran online from December 12, 2011 through March 31, 2012 with volunteers constantly soliciting adult U.S. residents to participate. The AGS Geographic Knowledge and Values Survey received 4,021 valid responses from people throughout the United States. While not a true random sample, the results are indicative of a sizable segment of the U. S. population: more educated, more female, and less ethnically and racially diverse than the general population.

This is one part of a major study funded by the National Science Foundation. The Road Map Project is a joint effort of the National Geographic Society (NGS), the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE), the Association of American Geographers (AAG), and AGS. The overall goal of the larger project is to improve geographic literacy, a matter of serious concern in the United States today.
The questions cover (a) public values regarding the discipline, (b) public knowledge about the discipline, and (c) public knowledge about real world geography.

The results indicate that Americans predominantly:

• Want more geography education to be offered in schools, colleges, and universities
throughout the United States.
o Approximately nine out of ten respondents wish they themselves had more
geographic education and nearly all want more for their children. To meet this need,
respondents favored offering geography courses at every education level, from
elementary school to Ph.D. programs in the most elite universities. And, they insist
instructors should have formal training in geography.

• Recognize the importance of geography in today’s society.
o A very high portion of respondents said they use geographic knowledge and skills in
their everyday lives. They repeatedly demonstrated that they use geographic
concepts and spatial thinking when engaging with the world around them on local to
global matters. Respondents correctly identified professions and government
agencies in which geography and its skills would be highly useful.

• Know that geography is about far more than just “knowing your states and capitals.”
o Respondents show a sophisticated understanding of the purview of geography,
which is defined not by content but rather by its emphasis on spatial reasoning,
though many did not know to call it geography. They understand that the discipline
covers a wide range of topics, methods, techniques, and technologies.
o However, specific knowledge about real world geography (places and processes) is
no better than the dismal levels found routinely in other public surveys of
geographic knowledge.

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