Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Counter-mapping is a technique that young people can use to take informed action on community issues through the mapping process. This mixed-methods study examined how ninth-graders in a large urban district in Iowa developed spatial thinking skills while engaging in counter-mapping in their community and the extent to which they used those maps to take informed action. A nine-week learning progression for counter-mapping scaffolded progress variables across three different spatial thinking standards and one inquiry standard. Findings indicated that students improved throughout the learning progression, but some needed teacher support to conduct spatial inquiries. Chances of reaching the upper anchor on a learning goal were positively associated with prior opportunities to grapple with complex spatial reasoning tasks. Students shifted over the learning progression from viewing maps as navigational tools to using them as communication tools. The extent to which students could use counter-maps to take informed action depended on their level of spatial literacy. Student reflections demonstrated that the hypothesized upper anchor of the inquiry standard and the lower anchor of the mental maps standard needed revision. Ninth-graders in the study could not take community-level informed action, but they could take personal action and propose potential solutions to spatial problems. Some significant results showed female students performed better than male students early in the learning progression. Latino students outperformed White students on two tasks. Counter-mapping is a place-based and assetbased pedagogical tool that can build critical spatial thinking skills while affirming students’ identities.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Geography

First Advisor

Alex Oberle, Chair, Thesis Committee

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (xv, 253 pages)