Robert Bednarz

Robert Bednarz

Professor Emeritus

  (979) 845-7187


Dr. Bednarz’s academic interests fall into two areas, geographic education and urban-economic geography. Over the past 15 years, during which he served as editor of the Journal of Geography and now as North American editor of the Journal of Geography in Higher Education, Dr. Bednarz has focused mainly on topics related to how people learn, organize, and use geographic information. His research interests lie within the broad area of spatial thinking, especially in how information technology (IT) affects individuals' ability to perceive, understand, and analyze spatial patterns, distributions, and relationships. His research perspective, like that of most geographers, extends beyond the spatial abilities typically investigated by psychologists or educational psychologists (i.e., spatial visualization and spatial orientation), to include what Golledge calls, spatial relations. These abilities—associating and correlating spatially distributed phenomena, way finding, overlaying, understanding scale, etc.—are often the most relevant to learning and applying geography.

Three projects are currently underway to explore aspects of this research topic. The first involves the development of a spatial-thinking-skills assessment methodology to measure the effect of completing geo-technology courses on spatial thinking. This assessment methodology will also be used to explore the components of spatial thinking and to test their independence. The second investigates the ability of young children to effectively understand and use aerial photos and the effect of scale on children's performance. The third is an attempt to understand the similarities and differences between spatial and geographical thinking. In addition to understanding these skills more deeply and completely, the goal of this research is to identify strategies and techniques that will facilitate the acquisition of these skills.

Selected Publications

  • Metoyer, S., R. S. Bednarz, and S. W. Bednarz. Forthcoming. “Spatial Thinking in Education: Concepts, development, and assessment,” in  Geospatial Technologies and Geography Education in a Changing World, eds. A. Demirci, O Muñiz, and J. van der Schee.
  • Yoshikawa, A. and R. S. Bednarz. 2013. “Gender Differences in Mobility Adaptations of Senior Citizens: A Case Study of Yao City, Japan,” Activities, Adaptation & Aging Vol. 37(4), pp. 297-318.
  • Kim, M. and R. S. Bednarz. 2013. “Effects of a GIS Course on Self-Assessment of Spatial Habits of Mind (SHOM),” Journal of Geography, 122(4): 165-177.
  • Kim, M. and R. S. Bednarz. 2013. “Development of Critical Spatial Thinking Through GIS Learning,” Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 37(3): 350-366
  • Kim, M., R. S. Bednarz, and J. Kim. 2012. “The Ability of Young Children to Use Spatial Representations,” International Research in Geographic and Environmental Education, 21(3): 261-277.
  • Jeo, I., A. G. Klein, R. S. Bednarz, and S. W. Bednarz. 2012. "An Exploration of Spatial Thinking in Introductory GIS Courses," in Teaching Geographic Information Science and Technology in Higher Education, eds. K. Foote, D. DiBiase, N. Tate and D. Unwin, pp. 211-229.
  • Lee, J., and R. S. Bednarz. 2012. "Components of Spatial Thinking: Evidence from a spatial thinking ability test," Journal of Geography, 111(1): 15-26.Bednarz, R. S. and J. Lee. 2011. “The Components of Spatial Thinking: Empirical evidence,” Procedia—Social and Behavioral Sciences, 21: 103-107.
  • Lee, J., and R. S. Bednarz. 2009. “Effect of GIS Learning on Spatial Thinking,” Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 33 (2): 183-198.
  • Bednarz, R.S. and S.W. Bednarz. 2008. “The Importance of Spatial Thinking in an Uncertain World,” in Geospatial Technologies and Homeland Security: Research Frontiers and Challenges, eds. D. Sui and S.L. Cutter. New York: Springer, pp. 315-330.


Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1975

Northwestern University 1969

Dartmouth College 1968


Journal of Geography Best Paper Award (co-author with Jongwon Lee), 2013

George J. Miller Award, National Council for Geographic Education, 2014

Distinguished Mentor Award, National Council for Geographic Education, 2014

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