The Heidelberg Inventory of Geographic System Competency Model

  • Kathrin ViehrigEmail author
  • Alexander Siegmund
  • Joachim Funke
  • Sascha Wüstenberg
  • Samuel Greiff
Part of the Methodology of Educational Measurement and Assessment book series (MEMA)


The concept “system” is fundamental to many disciplines. It has an especially prominent place in geography education, in which additionally, the spatial perspective is central. Empirically validated competency models dealing specifically with geographic systems—as well as adequate measurement instruments—are still lacking. Therefore, based on the theoretically-guided development of a Geographic System Competency (GSC) model, the aim was to build and evaluate such a measurement instrument, with the help of probabilistic measurement models. The competency model had three dimensions: (1) “comprehend and analyze systems”, (2) “act towards systems” and (3) “spatial thinking”, whereby dimension (2) was changed to “evaluating possibilities to act towards systems” after a thinking-aloud study. A Cognitive Lab (CogLab) and two quantitative studies (Q1 n = 110, Q2 n = 324) showed divergent results. Dimension (2) could not be identified in both quantitative studies. Whereas Dimensions (1) and (3) constituted separate dimensions in Q1, in Q2 the two-dimensional model did not fit significantly better than the one-dimensional model. Besides showing the close relationship between spatial and systemic thinking in geographic contexts, which are thus both needed in modeling GSC, the project highlights the need for more research in this central area of geography education.


Systems thinking Spatial thinking Competence model University students Geography 



This chapter is largely based on the final project report. The HEIGIS-project was funded by grants SI 877/6-1 and FU 173/13-1 from the German Research Foundation (DFG) in the Priority Program “Competence Models for Assessing Individual Learning Outcomes and Evaluating Educational Processes” (SPP 1293). Thanks also to the student research assistants, who played an important role, especially with regard to the data collection in the CogLabs. Thanks also to all experts who provided valuable advice during item generation for all studies. Of course, thanks also to all participants.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathrin Viehrig
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexander Siegmund
    • 2
  • Joachim Funke
    • 3
  • Sascha Wüstenberg
    • 4
  • Samuel Greiff
    • 4
  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern SwitzerlandWindischSwitzerland
  2. 2.Heidelberg University of EducationHeidelbergGermany
  3. 3.Heidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany
  4. 4.University of LuxembourgEsch-sur-AlzetteLuxembourg

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