Expressions of geographic literacy in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: the role of geographic education among adults

Dalit Lan, Sagi Dalyot, Ayelet Baram-Tsabari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The global outbreak of COVID-19 brought an unprecedented influx of official and semiofficial geographic information to individuals worldwide, primarily in the form of geospatial and numerical data. Maps specifically played a key role in the conveying of information and guidelines to the public in relation to the pandemic. Yet to fully understand such input, and reach informed decisions, the public needed to possess and utilize geographic literacy. In this paper, the term geographic literacy is defined as the ability to use spatial-geographic knowledge, skills, and reasoning, as a means for understanding and interpreting intertwined spatial phenomena. This study therefore aims at examining geographic literacy among adults, both in general and in relation to geographic education. Online quantitative questionnaires were completed by a representative sample of 456 Hebrew-speaking adults in Israel. Findings indicate low geographic literacy among the public, as seen in tasks that require data extraction and comprehension of visual representations. While the non-cognitive outcomes, such as attitudes toward geography and self-efficacy in geography, were strongly correlated with expressions of geographic literacy in the context of COVID-19, the highest formal instruction in geography and geographic education were not. These findings indicate that low geographic literacy might hinder making pandemic-related informed decisions, thus highlighting the importance of promoting geographic literacy. We conclude with the importance of identifying pedagogical mechanisms that enhance geospatial skills while also addressing non-cognitive outcomes, to better prepare diverse populations for 21st-century challenges.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Geoscience Education
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Geographic literacy
  • geographic education
  • geographic knowledge
  • geospatial literacy

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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