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which participants gather spatial information available in the surrounding environment and record it on a graphic representation.

The object location task (see Liben & Downs, 1986) was given to kindergarten, first- and second-grade children in their own classrooms. Children were first introduced to maps in general and then shown overhead transparencies of a map of their classroom. The first contained a scale map of the walls, door, and windows of the classroom, and the second added scale symbols for the classroom furniture. Group discussions involved collaborative identification of key features on the map (such as doors and windows) and of their link to the analogous features in the actual room (e.g., linking map lines to corresponding room walls). After general correspondences were established, a map was placed on each child's desk so that it was aligned with the room. Children were then asked to show on their map the location of six objects in their classroom. Because this task was designed to test children's ability to use a spatial-graphic representation to convey information about locations that were perceptually available (rather than, say, stored environmental knowledge about the room), children were first asked to point to a given object (e.g., the pencil sharpener), and only after all children were pointing correctly, to indicate its location on the map.

As in most earlier tasks, what is striking from the resulting data is less that there was an increment in performance with age (correct object locations were, by grade, 50%, 78%, and 87%), but rather the range of performance within each grade such that even some kindergarten children were correct on every item, and even some second-grade children were incorrect on every item.

Also as in earlier tasks, there was considerable variability in success across items. The most likely interpretation of the differences is that they reflect the degree to which similarly shaped, nearby landmarks are available for possible confusion. For example, in one classroom, children were very accurate (73% correct) in locating the blue box which was on the piano. The only similarly shaped and isolated piece of furniture was the teacher's desk which was at the opposite end of the room. In contrast, children in that class were very inaccurate (4% correct) in locating the red phone which was on a small shelf unit. In this case, there were several other nearby pieces of furniture of a similar size and shape that offered confusing alternatives.

The second illustrative task, the person location and direction task, was given to children in Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, and in a combined Grade 5/6 (Liben & Downs, 1993). This task was conceptually similar to the object location task, but extended it in several ways. First, rather than identifying locations of familiar objects already present in the classroom, target locations were defined by a person who moved to various places in the room. Because the person stood on the floor, this meant that locations were on undifferentiated areas of the map, thus involving metric definitions of location (e.g., "about a third of the way across the room") rather than only topological ones (e.g., "on the piano"). Second, children were asked to indicate the person's orientation as well as his location. Specifically, at each location, the person pointed straight ahead, and said, "Now I am the [color, e.g., blue] arrow. Put your [blue] arrow on the map to show where I am standing and which direction I am pointing." Finally, children were asked to complete the task twice, first when the map was aligned with the room, and second, after the map had been rotated by 180°. Under the latter condition, when a person was, say, to a child's right in the actual space, the correct location for the sticker on the map would be to the child's left. Whenever a map is out of alignment with the space (as often occurs in the real world, see Levine, Marchon, & Hanley, 1984), users must draw on projective spatial concepts to use the map successfully.

Performance was generally worse among younger children, but particularly so in the unaligned condition (Liben & Downs, 1993). This finding is consistent with the notion that reading or communicating point-of-view information (projective spatial concepts) is mastered later in childhood than is landmark or topological information. Again, data revealed a wide range of performance within grades. For example, even on the most difficult unaligned condition, a small percentage of the kindergarten children performed very well.

Patterns of responses to individual items are again useful in suggesting strategies, and in identifying what aspects of these tasks are difficult. Figure 12.9 shows the placement of arrows for one particular item in one of the first-grade classrooms. What is apparent is that under the aligned condition, most children place their stickers in the correct quadrant of the map, and almost all children orient the arrows in roughly the correct direction. They apparently have little difficulty differentiating what part of the map refers to the floor, and what part to furniture (only a single arrow is placed on a piece of furniture). In contrast, in the unaligned condition, few responses are in the correct quadrant and facing in the correct direction. There are some responses that appear to be the result of children placing their arrows on the map in relation to their own bodies, rather than in relation to the represented space. These arrows are in the opposite corner of the map (lower right, rather than upper left) and point in the opposite direction (facing the upper left rather than the lower right). Other children appear to realize that they need to take the unaligned position of the map into account as they answer and thus respond differently, but they do not understand how to adjust. Many responses suggest deep confusions: several arrows were placed on furniture (impossible, given that the person had not climbed on top of a desk) and some directions were correct neither in relation to the piece of paper, nor in relation to the child's own body (e.g., see arrows pointing to the upper right corner of the map).

Finding Your Confidence

Finding Your Confidence

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