Geospatial Expertise

Developing Geospatial Expertise Symposium Organizing Committee: Heather Burte, Jung Eun Hong, and Michael N. DeMers

Sunday, August 1st, 2021 at Spatial Cognition 2020/1

The Symposium will be delivered in a hybrid fashion: Sunday, August 1st in the afternoon (15:00 to 19:00) in Riga, Latvia and online Sunday morning in the USA:

  • Eastern time: 8am to noon
  • Central time: 7am to 11am
  • Mountain time: 6am to 10am
  • Pacific time: 5am to 9am

Developing Geospatial Expertise Program

Times in Eastern Standard Time in USA

8:00 – 8:15     Meet and greet led by Jessie Hong

8:20 – 8:35     Introductory Remarks by Heather Burte

8:40 – 8:55     Toru Ishikawa, University of Tokyo 

“Geographical and Spatial Aspects of Geospatial Thinking”

9:00 – 9:15     Bob Kolvoord, James Madison University 

“GIS in Secondary Education: The First Steps in Developing Geospatial Expertise”

9:20 – 9:35     Christos Charcharos, National Technical University of Athens

“Exploring the relation between spatial abilities and STEM expertise”

9:40 – 9:55     Group Discussion led by Heather Burte

10:00 – 10:15     Break

10:20 – 10:35     Lynn Moorman, Mount Royal University  

“Looking at the learner: investigating requirements and characteristics for geospatial learning with technology”

10:40 – 10:55     Emily Peterson, American University  

“Developing Spatial Thinking in Secondary Education: Evidence from the Geospatial Semester”

11:00 – 11:15     Forrest Bowlick, University of Massachusetts – Amherst 

“The End or the Beginning: Teaching and Learning the ‘Hidden Obvious’ of Geospatial Expertise”

11:20 – 11:35     Group Discussion led by Mike DeMers

11:40 – 11:55     Concluding Remarks by Mike DeMers

Zoom & Time Management – Jessie Hong

Symposium Overview

Geospatial thinking and expertise are at the heart of arguably one of the most integrative professional disciplines; that of geographer. Geospatial thinking is commonly associated with geographic problem solving in general and geographic information systems (GIS) specifically. The problems geographers solve involve a complex integration of disparate and often obscure data and information over both space and time. The very nature of spatial thinking, reasoning, and expertise is considered one of the big questions in geography (Cutter, et al. 2002). Geospatial expertise draws on and recognizes a vast array of seemingly unrelated interconnections allowing the geographer to find solutions to otherwise incomprehensible problems. Often characterized erroneously as spatial thinking, geospatial thinking is considerably more complex than the ability to recognize the spatial nature of objects in multiple directions, mentally turn them around in space, and recognize patterns of collections of objects. Geospatial thinking, or more generally, geographic thinking, involves both time and space, acknowledges cause and effect relationships of geographic phenomena at multiple scales, and recognizes the impact of spatial and temporal scale on processes. The complexity of geographic thinking necessitates an equally complex set of learning experiences that collectively, and through multiple interactions, are characterized by the professional geographer. Little is known about how individuals progress from being novices in high school and college through to attaining expertise in geospatial thinking. The goal of this symposium is to bring together experts across multiple disciplines to present, discuss, and build collaborations that will support research investigating how individuals develop their geospatial expertise.

Submission of Short Papers

As part of the Spatial Cognition 2020/1 conference, we invite individuals to attend and present at the Geospatial Expertise Symposium. Individuals who want to present at the symposium should submit short papers discussing their perspectives and research on geospatial expertise. Short papers will be reviewed by the symposium organizers and authors will be informed if their paper is accepted. Accepted short papers will be presented by the author(s) at the symposium in the form of 15-minute talks and a round-table discussion. Our interest is in collecting multiple views of geospatial expertise, its definition(s), quantitative and qualitative measurement, testing, acquisition, pathways to learning, barriers to learning, setbacks, mechanisms for improving acquisition, unique characteristics from other forms of expertise, contribution to the science of learning, contribution to STEM learning, and potential impacts of artificial intelligence. We invite experts in spatial cognition, geospatial educators, geospatial practitioners and others who share an interest in the topic to contribute short papers on their specific area of interest. We anticipate having accepted short papers published online in a proceedings, along with inviting authors on a competitive basis to submit short articles to a special Geospatial Expertise Forum of the Annals of the American Association of Geographers. Should there be enough interest we will also invite expanded versions of selected papers to be submitted to a special issue of Transactions in GIS.

If you want to share your perspective on the development of geospatial expertise, please submit a short paper ( Short papers should be a maximum of 2,000 words in length and follow the APA formatting style. Note that papers not adhering to the style guidelines or the word limits will be rejected without review. Manuscripts will be reviewed by at least two members of the symposium organizing committee. At least one author of each accepted paper must be present at the symposium to give the 15-minute presentation.

List of Topics for Short Papers

Short papers, and their accompanying talks, must focus on some aspect of developing geospatial expertise. The author(s) field(s) may include any discipline that deals with geospatial expertise. Disciplines include, but are not limited to: Geography, GIScience, Geoscience, Geoinformatics, Psychology, Neuroscience, Education, Learning Science, Linguistics, Engineering, and Public Health. We are interested in topics, including but not limited to:

  • How can geospatial expertise be explicitly defined?
  • How can geospatial expertise be measured?
  • How is geospatial expertise acquired?
  • What are the waypoints to acquiring geospatial expertise?
  • What blocks or redirects the acquisition of geospatial expertise?
  • What makes geospatial expertise different from other types of expertise?
  • How can understanding of geospatial expertise contribute to the science of learning?
  • How does geospatial expertise contribute to STEM learning?
  • How can knowledge of geospatial expertise acquisition be translated into learning environments?
  • How to measure relevant mileposts (positive or negative) for learning?


Cutter, S. L., Golledge, R., & Graf, W. L. (2002). The big questions in geography. The Professional Geographer, 54(3), 305–317.