Geographic Literacy and World Knowledge Among Undergraduate College Students
Winship, Jodi M.
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To succeed in today's globalized world, it is important to understand the places and cultures outside our own. Yet despite the acknowledged need for and importance of a greater understanding of the world, various surveys assessing geographic knowledge have demonstrated the geographic ignorance of people in the U.S. The purpose of this study is to assess the level of geographic literacy among undergraduate college students and to investigate factors that may influence geographic literacy. An on-line survey, adapted from the National Geographic - Roper 2002 Global Geographic Literacy Survey, was administered to a sample of undergraduate students at Virginia Tech. The survey included a geography "quiz" to assess knowledge of geography and world events and a background section to collect information about various factors that may influence the participants' geographic literacy. Over 400 students participated in the study. The data were statistically analyzed using the Mann-Whitney U and Kruskal-Wallis tests for differences in means. Contrary to much of the previous research, the participants in this survey demonstrated a good level of geographic knowledge. The mean score of the geography "quiz" was 81 percent. Some of the factors found to have influence on the scores were gender, international travel, major, fulfillment of Virginia Tech's Area 7 requirement, frequency of news media access, and type of news accessed. Age, academic class, GPA, residency status, junior/high school geography classes, international friends, and knowledge of foreign languages were found to have little or no influence.
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