Educational Researchers (Who Think Spatially) Are My Heroes

Using GIS to analyze educational research or educational policy data while not new, isn’t neccessarily the most common application of GIS in higher education. A few years ago, Dr. William Tate was president of AERA and among his many presidential activities, led AERA members to consider the power of spatial analysis (example paper) more broadly when studying educational or social science research data. As a case in point, consider the story of his work related to place and student performance.  In fact, Dr. Tate’s work with Washington University colleague Dr. Mark Hogrebe, stands out in my mind as an exemplary use of GIS to analyze educational data. Dr. Hogrebe’s work has also produced countless papers, including  work on science attainment as well as the St. Louis Regional Database Project (mapper).

Researchers that understand the spatial perspective have a keen advantage over their colleagues, but more importantly are better able to make sense of the phenomena they are studying. Whether you need to simply map out your research data or use spatial statistics inside of ArcGIS for Desktop or ArcGIS Online, the added understanding of geographical analysis of educational data will certainly complement and extend a traditional statistical or qualitative analysis.

In the 2008 book, Spatial Theories of Education Policy and Geography Matters, where Dr.’s Gulson and Symes and a cadre of educational researchers lay out some common cases for using GIS and spatial analysis to better understand trends across global education. The stories explore:

  1. Knowing One’s Place: Educational Theory, Policy, and the Spatial Turn
  2. The Spatial Politics of Educational Privatization: Re-reading the US Homeschooling Movement
  3. Mobilizing Space Discourses: Politics and Educational Policy Change
  4. Space, Equity and Rural Education: A ‘Trialectical’ Account
  5. GIS and School Choice: The Use of Spatial Research Tools in Studying Educational Policy
  6. Disability, Education and Space: Some Critical Reflections Felicity Armstrong
  7. Working the In/visible Geographies of School Exclusion
  8.  Warehousing Young People in Urban Canadian Schools: Gender, Peer Rivalry and Spatial Containment
  9. Education and the Spatialization of Urban Inequality: A Case Study of Chicago’s Renaissance 2010
  10. On the Right Track: Railways and Schools in Late Nineteenth Century of Sydney
  11. Student Mobility and the Spatial Production of Cosmopolitan Identities
  12. Public-Private Partnerships, Digital Firms and the Production of a Neoliberal Education Space at the European Scale
  13. Deparochializing the Study of Education: Globalization and the Research Imagination
  14. Trade Unions, Strategic Pedagogy and New Spaces of Engagement: Counter knowledge, Economy Insights from Columbia

The role of space and place across education should be evident, but these stories begin the exploration of educational research questions and their analysis.

Over the coming year, look for regular blog posts that reflect on GIS in educational research, from case studies and features to GIS tools, tutorials, and techniques particularly relevant to the educational researcher and social scientist.  Even if you (only) map your data to provide a more compelling context for you study, I believe you’ll see that more often than expected, where does matter to better understanding!

This post is a part of the 2014 blog series on Educational Research and Geospatial Technologies.

Tom Baker

About Tom Baker

Tom Baker is an Esri Education Manager, specializing in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, teacher education, and educational research. He regularly publishes and presents on geospatial technologies across education.
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