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Instructional Development Award Recipients

Several undergraduate instructors who attended the 2004 SPACE workshops were awarded funds to continue their efforts in integrating spatial analysis into their course curriculums. These pages showcase their achievements. See the full recipient list.

Wendy Bigler

Affiliation: Geography, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Workshop Attended: Spatial Analysis and GIS for Undergraduate Course Enhancement in the Social Sciences
Accomplishment: Designed a core curriculum class on "Environmental Conservation" that emphasizes critical spatial reasoning. Also introduced GeoDa-based exercises for three other courses.

Notable Achievements in Her Own Words

Following the SPACE workshop, I have been active in creating and implementing spatial approaches in undergraduate education. Specifically,

  • I designed and proposed a new core curriculum class "Environmental Conservation" which I will teach for the first time Fall 2005. This class uses spatial reasoning and critical thinking to deliver concepts in environmental geography.
  • I designed several GeoDa-based exercises for physical and environmental geography classes.

By explicitly focusing on spatial thinking in my undergraduate courses, I am helping students organize and analyze content material in a way that helps them develop as geographers. They will leave my courses with the fundamental value that "Space matters", and the ability to think critically about patterns they observe. I see my role in undergraduate education as more of a guide or coach than a "sage on the stage". This student-centered, inquiry-based approach enables them to discover and explore patterns and trends personally, rather than merely memorizing information fed to them.

The SPACE workshop provided the raw materials of appropriate software and computer labs, along with excellent instruction in software use and pedagogy.
Wendy Bigler

The SPACE workshop provided the raw materials of appropriate software and computer labs, along with excellent instruction in software use and pedagogy. In addition, the workshop served as a catalyst for me through the opportunity to meet like-minded social scientists interested in improving undergraduate education. Spending time with people from other disciplines taught me that there is a great deal of geography being practiced outside the traditional boundaries of discipline, and that these practitioners have excellent ideas on how to illustrate and explain spatial concepts. The initial idea to create a core curriculum class based on spatial and quantitative reasoning came directly out of the San Diego State University workshop, when I had a lengthy discussion with sociologist Christopher Weiss about a class he developed at Columbia University. I was able to discuss the idea with several of the instructors, and six months later, Southern Illinois University has a new core curriculum course on the books.

Course Materials

Future Participation

Chris Weiss and I met during the UCGIS winter meeting (February 11, 2005) and discussed collaborating on a social science education project that would highlight the development of our spatial reasoning-based courses and specifically the implementation of GeoDa as a tool for student inquiry. We propose to develop two products that stem directly from our participation in the SPACE workshop this past summer: an article for a journal on teaching practice in the social sciences and a presentation at the 2006 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.

We both have been very impressed with GeoDa as an approachable tool for novice users and either have incorporated it (Bigler) or plan to incorporate it (Weiss) in our courses. By writing a "best practices" article about using GeoDa in undergraduate social science classrooms, we can help facilitate the spread of knowledge about this tool can be used in inquiry-based learning. We will publish our paper in a social science education journal, most likely Teaching Sociology or Journal of Geography in Higher Education. We will then present this paper in an education section of the AAAS meeting to bring this tool to a diverse group of social and natural scientists. The classes we will use as the basis of the presentations and paper will be held next academic year, with a manuscript submitted by June '06.

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