Critiquing Crummy Maps

Emily Burns, Community College of Rhode Island


Students work in groups to identify problems with a group of maps from the internet. Problems include lack of detail, lack of readability, no coordinates, and other issues.


Type and level of course
This activity was developed for an introductory-level ArcGIS course for students with a variety of abilities and skill levels. The students included several people in a surveying certificate program, a member of the engineering faculty at my college, and upper-level geology and geography students from other institutions. All had varying levels of experience with cartography and GIS.

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment
None needed

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
None needed

Software required for this assignment/activity:

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
About 15-20 minutes


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
The activity helps students focus on what it is vital to include in a map and what should be left out. If they have no sense of how a map can be made readable and usable, they will be unable to produce good maps, even with good software.

Other content/concepts goals for this activity
Get them thinking critically and working in a group.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Looking at maps critically; evaluating problems, omissions, and design issues; learning what to avoid when making their own maps.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students are given a printout of several not very good maps and asked to critique them as a group. The maps are then projected at the front of the room one at a time and each group contributes their ideas.

Determining whether students have met the goals

I write down their responses and compare them with my own critique of the maps. When we did this, they came up with more problems than I had noticed.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.

URLs and References

Download teaching materials and tips

  • Activity Description/Assignment: Map critique activity (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 14kB Apr27 10)
  • Instructors Notes: mapactivity1 (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 14kB Apr27 10)
  • Solution Set:

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