The satellite image reading literacy. Empirical validation of a theoretical competence structure model of "reading" satellite images

Dr. Isabelle Kollar
First advisor: Prof. Dr. Alexander Siegmund
Second advisor: Prof. Dr. Gunter Menz (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University Bonn)


The dissertation has been published here.



Satellite images have become an inherent part of our daily lives whether in the weather forecast, in the news or in the exploration of our next holiday destination via Google Earth. In the Earth science, satellite images have provided important data and played a major role analysing and assessing global environmental changes for 30 years. The use of satellite images is therefore included in the educational standards in geography and various curricula, but is still not area-wide implemented: But what can students „see“ in satellite images? This research study investigates satellite image reading literacy. A theory-based competence structure model of satellite images reading literacy is developed based on theoretical work on educational standards and competency development, as well as on learning with images in general and working with satellite images in particular. In accordance with the literacy definition of Weinert (2001) and with a focus on cognitive abilities, satellite image reading literacy is defined as cognitive abilities and skills available to individuals or learnable by them to identify and describe main elements in satellite images depicting the earth’s surface (true and false colour satellite images), to describe their relations, as well as to reflect on and evaluate the informational content (potentials and constraints) of satellite images. The normative competence structure model consists of two dimensions, which are “natural and indicational image understanding“ and “depict, reflect and evaluate informational content“, as well as of four different successive competence levels. After constructing the normative competence model, an empirical verification is done at the end of higher secondary education in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg with the help of an online-questionnaire. Additionally, some research questions like the previous use of satellite images in school or at home, correlations between the frequency of previous use of satellite images and their reading literacy as well as differences between male and female students regarding satellite image use and abilities are analysed. The statistical analysis of the competency modelling is conducted with the probabilistic item-response-theory. The answers of the research questions are generated with the classical test theory.

Project term: 2007-2012

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