Geographic learning and mobility: A study of service children.

  • R. Dutton

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The research follows interests in environmental perception, socio-spatial cognition and geographic learning, with Armed Forces' children, who are a group with histories of geographic mobility providing data for assessing the influence of environmental experience upon cognitive development. The provisions for these children while overseas follow patterns established for mainstream education in U.K. and the only real anxiety voiced on their behalf centres upon what is referred to as 'turbulence', i.e. the disruptive effects of their mobility. As far as continuity of educational experience is concerned the dangers are real, and much has been done already to counter the effects of inter-school transfers. However, far less attention has been given to the more optimistic thesis that mobility might stimulate cognitive development. In theory, it should foster qualities which contribute to socio-spatial cognition and geographic learning. The research sets out to see whether evidence from this particular study confirms or conflicts with the theoretical expectations. For the study of 1368 pupils who constituted the third-year Secondary population of Service schools overseas, a 5-way ANOVA procedure is employed, using the variables of mobility, intelligence, sex, socio-economic status and family size, together with scores from a developed test of geographic learning, which includes attitudes and interests. The results which are reviewed in the light of cognitive theory, are subject to the limitations of any ex post facto study, but as far as geographic understanding is concerned, they give no support to the idea that the achievement of these Service children suffered because of mobility. While there is no significant association between mobility and measured attitudes, for achievement, mobility shows a significant interaction with intelligence, the main source of score variance. For children of average intelligence, higher mobility is associated with better test performance.
Date of Award1978
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath

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