The Effects Of A 'key Strategy' On The Map Reading Abilities Of Early And Late Adolescents (visual Literacy)

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Educat.D.)


Reading and Learning Disabilities


Purpose. This study examined the effects of a value key or legend and the effectiveness of literal and inferential questions on the map reading achievement of adolescents. It was predicted that a value key would facilitate comprehension of information on thematic maps and that differences would be observed between younger and older adolescents. It was further hypothesized that the nature of the questions would influence map reading achievement. It was expected that literal comprehension would exceed inferential comprehension for maps with value keys.Procedure. Adolescents analyzed qualitative thematic maps with and without accompanying value keys. Sixty college freshmen between the ages of 17 and 19 were designated as Late Adolescents, and sixty middle school students between the ages of 13 and 15 as Early Adolescents. Subjects completed a test consisting of ten black-and-white maps adapted from textbooks, magazines, and newspapers. Alternate forms were randomly distributed to the subjects who completed the untimed, forty-item multiple choice exercise within one class period.Findings. The results of a three-factor repeated measures analysis of variance indicated significant differences between map achievement with and without keys. As predicted, the performance of older adolescents was superior to the performance of younger adolescents. The data also revealed a relationship between question type and map comprehension. The information on maps with keys was more closely associated with literal rather than inferential levels of achievement.Descriptive analyses and an examination of map reading miscues suggested that some maps and questions were equally difficult or easy for both age levels. Potential causes of miscues were also identified.Conclusions and Recommendations. Map reading achievement seems best explained as an interaction of the structural features and the symbolism of the map, the nature of the questions, and the characteristics of the map reader. Apparently a value key functions to define map symbols and to orient the map reader to the language of the map. Since a map is a complex symbolic system, it is recommended that educators recognize the utility of a key strategy and reinforce key use in a variety of thematic maps.


Education, Reading

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