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EVALUATING LEARNING MATERIAL FOR MAP READING Lorraine · PDF fileEVALUATING LEARNING MATERIAL FOR MAP READING Lorraine Innes, Chief Directorate, Surveys and Mapping, Department of

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    Lorraine Innes, Chief Directorate, Surveys and Mapping, Department of LandAffairs, Republic of South Africa


    In 1997 the South African national mapping organisation (the Chief Directorate:Surveys and Mapping) launched a national campaign to promote mapawareness and map literacy. One product of the MapAware Project is MapTrix:a self-instruction programme for learning to read the 1:50 000 Topographic Mapof South Africa. The National Department of Land Affairs, through the nationalmapping organisation, sponsored two thousand MapTrix Kits for under-resourced schools throughout South Africa. At the nine provincial MapTrixpresentation ceremonies, geography education authorities were requested toallocate donated Kits to those schools most in need of learning materials formap use. The names and contact details of these schools were requested sothat placement and adoption of the materials could be investigated. A survey ofgeography educators opinions was conducted by means of a postalquestionnaire. Biographical details of educators revealed their level of trainingfor teaching map use and the resources available to them for performing thistask. The evaluation of all aspects of the learning material and of the attitudeand behaviour of educators and learners while using MapTrix is reported. Thequestionnaire included an invitation to collaborate in the further development ofthe learning material for the higher order skills of map and photo analysis andinterpretation. The response of the educators is described.

    KEY WORDS: topographic map reading, spatial skills, evaluation of learningmaterials, self-instruction, attitude scale.


    Visionary planning initiated in 1995 eventually led to the appointment of a full-timegeographer and short-term consultant on 1 June 1997 to develop a Map Awarenessand Map Literacy Project for the South African national mapping organisation.Charged with this responsibility is the Chief Directorate of Surveys and Mapping(CDSM) in the Department of Land Affairs (DLA) (Hanekom, 1998).

    The MapAware Project addresses the problem of low levels of map literacy in SouthAfrica (Innes 1999a). This is evidenced by poor performance in school leaversgeography practical examinations (Magi, 1981; Davies, 1988; Burton, 1990;Ndlwana, 1991; Cowie, 1994; McGee et al., 1995; Sekete, 1995; Tshibalo andSchulze, 2000) and the low ratio of maps sold, per head of population (Clarke,1997). CDSM undertook to provide maps to schools (Clarke, 1996) and the processwas formalised with an undertaking to put the local topographic map sheet on thewall of every senior secondary geography classroom in South Africa (Innes, 1997).Apart from five free maps, MapPacks include information to help educators use themaps in geography education; activities that develop environmental responsibility areencouraged (Naisch et al., 1979; Innes, 1999b and 1999c). Other MapAware

  • teaching aids include the MapAware Test Map, Gordons Bay Training Map (withaccompanying co-ordinate exercise) and the MapAware Symbols Video. Staff of theMapAware project assist educators to access appropriate spatial informationproducts from the National Map Series and process the 33 % discount (GovernmentGazette, 2001) offered to approved educational institutions that promote map usethrough geography and/or environmental education.

    Much of the research that informed the products and processes of the MapAwareProject was conducted during the development of MapTrix: a self-instructionprogramme for learning to read the 1:50 000 Topographic Map of South Africa(Innes, 1998 & 2000a). A Kit contains all the material required to administer theMapTrix programme. The main component is a set of 52 work cards, each has ageography lesson with accompanying map extract, a map reading exercise andselected symbol explanations illustrated by colour photographs. Also included are52 answer cards, learner response booklets and the MapTrix Educators Guide.

    MapTrix was launched in October 2000 at the 80th anniversary celebrations ofCDSM. Minister of Education, Professor Kader Asmal, accepted a donation from theDLA of two thousand Kits on behalf of schools teaching geography to Grade 12(Tickner, 2000). Of these, 200 Kits were made available to schools as prizes in acompetition run by The Teacher (2001). One thousand eight hundred Kits werepresented to provincial education authorities during February and March 2001. Theywere asked to allocate Kits to those schools most in need of materials to improveperformance in the practical examination for Grade 12 geography. A further 1000Kits were published for commercial distribution.

    In order to assist educators in the implementation of the learning programme, atraining video was produced (Chief Directorate: Surveys and Mapping, 2000b). Atthe nine presentation ceremonies, attended by provincial education authoritiesresponsible for geography, the video was shown and its use in teacher trainingrecommended. Authorities were requested to provide CDSM with the name andaddress of each school allocated a MapTrix Kit. This information was required tosurvey educators and learners opinions of MapTrix and to invite educators tocollaborate in the development of further learning materials (Innes, 2000b & 2001).


    Map reading can be defined as the recognition and identification of map symbolsand the comprehension of the geographic features that they represent (Innes1998, 1). This is the basic skill level in a hierarchy that includes the analysis andultimately the interpretation of spatial information. The 1:50 000 topographic map ofSouth Africa is the base map of the national map series. Its study is prescribed forthe practical matric (Grade 12) geography paper. This map (on 1916 sheets) is thusthe focus of learning materials developed by the national mapping organisation andmade available to formal and informal education so as to promote and improve mapliteracy (Innes and Engel, 2001a & 2001b). Guidance from education departments(e.g. Smit, 1994) as well as general geography school texts and specific texts formap use (from Liebenberg et al 1976 to Burton and Pitt, 1993 to name a few) all usemaps from this series.

  • Research revealed that maps were generally not available in all schools and thatmany geography educators had received inadequate training (Magi, 1981; McGee etal., 1995; Sekete, 1995). This motivated the development of a self-instructionprogramme so that maps, lessons and exercises could be delivered directly into thehands of geography learners (Innes, 1999d). It is recognised that higher order mapuse skills also need to be developed. It is proposed that a self-instruction method foranalysing and interpreting spatial information, provisionally named MapTrix 2, shouldbe developed as a companion to MapTrix but first it is necessary to evaluate theexisting programme. This paper is a report on the evaluation of MapTrix as a meansto improve the map reading ability of learners in under-resourced classrooms inSouth Africa.


    The evaluation of the learning material was conducted using a postal questionnairesurvey. Following the guidelines of Bless and Higson-Smith (1995) a draftquestionnaire was drawn up covering various issues: the practical (access to thematerials), demographic (educator and learner profiles), behavioural (tasks andperformance) and attitudinal or perceptual (positive or negative impact or response).Because attitude to an innovative educational intervention strategy is likely toinfluence adoption rates, it was decided to incorporate attitude scales into the surveyquestionnaire. These were included so as to produce a measurable attitude scoreand to identify particular strengths and weaknesses in the programme and learningmaterials.

    Huysamen (1994) reviews the attitude scales developed by Likert, Guttman andothers but cautions that researchers need to compile attitude scales themselves tomeasure the attitudes relevant to their research Huysamen (1994, 125). The aspectof the Guttman scale adapted for the attitude scales used in the evaluation ofMapTrix was the simple yes/no response style. This was selected in preference tothe degree of agreement or disagreement (on a scale of 5) used by Lickert. Boththese scales use a variety of statements graded from most to least favourable.Rather than impersonal statements, a series of questions was asked about theparticipants personal experience of using MapTrix. The score is simply the numberof statements with which the participant has agreed. Instructions were kept to aminimum and the responses were largely confined to a yes or no response.

    Two attitude scales were developed, one to assess the educators evaluation oflearner attitudes and behaviour and the other to assess the educators evaluation oftheir own response to the MapTrix programme and procedures. Each consisted oftwenty questions to which a yes or no answer was required. The order of yes/noresponses was varied to counteract the possible effect of acquiescence(Huysamen, 1994, 129). Participants could also opt not to answer at all or to returna not applicable (n/a) response. Because the scale was developed to evaluatewhether educators (and learners) were positively disposed towards MapTrix, positiveresponses were allocated a value of 1, all other responses a zero value.

    A pilot survey was conducted with six educators at schools in the local area(Western Cape). The schools selected ranged from extremely well resourced to onewith minimal resources. Structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with

  • three educators; structured telephone interviews were conducted with the others whohad each received the draft qu