GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS (GIS) IN HIGHER EDUCATION: A STUDY OF PROVISION, PEDAGOGY AND EMPLOYABILITY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM AND TURKEY
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Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are computer-based systems designed to store, organize, analyse and present spatial data. They can be used to help understand and answer a wide variety of problems in fields such as environmental management, resource planning and retail location and development. This thesis aims to explore the GIS education provided within university Geography departments (or units) in both the UK and Turkey. The main topics for investigation are the nature and scale of the GIS provision, the principal characteristic of the teaching, learning and assessment processes and also graduate employability – how far the courses and their students satisfied employer needs. Although there is a substantial literature on GIS education, this thesis is different for two reasons. First, because it takes a more holistic approach to examining many aspects of GIS education within a number of case study departments. Second, because it covers two different countries, which can then be compared. With reference to the research methods, this PhD examined ten case study departments, six from the UK and four from Turkey. The data collected were derived from a combination of student questionnaires, staff interviews, teaching observations and reading course documents. Both qualitative and quantitative were used to examine the data. In the UK the main types of provision were found to be some 90 GIS named modules within Geography undergraduate programmes, 22 GIS Masters degrees and 7 UG GIS programmes. In Turkey, where engineering is the leading GIS discipline, there were 61 modules in undergraduate Geography, two Geography-based Masters programmes and no GIS undergraduate degrees. In the UK the great majority of GIS II provision in Geography degrees takes the form of modules which are optional, with the result that most Geographers obtain only a very limited understanding of GIS and its applications. By contrast, in Turkey, the GIS modules are typically compulsory and the subject therefore occupies a more central and prominent position in the curriculum. In both countries, more than 70 percent of students said they were satisfied with their GIS teaching (with no statistically difference in satisfaction levels related to the gender or year of study). Although this is a positive finding, there were some weakness and disappointments. With respect to curriculum design and delivery, insufficient attention was given to use of Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) and in both countries students complained about too much theory and about teaching which was too heavily based on lectures and not sufficiently active and student centred (especially in Turkey). GIS staff rarely took part in teaching related CPD and GIS was little used outside the formally designated modules. GIS employer opinions were varied on the quality of graduates but common criticisms were that they lacked the business awareness and in Turkey had often poor standards of English. The links between academia and the GIS profession were patchy. The thesis ends with over 20 recommendations, the most important of which is for Geography as a discipline to give more priority to GIS. Particularly in the UK (though less so in Turkey), many Geographers graduate with little knowledge or experience of GIS. In the age of the information economy, this is a significant missed opportunity.
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