Paper No. 284-3
Presentation Time: 1:45 PM
USING SKETCHING SOFTWARE WITH A VIRTUAL TUTOR TO INCREASE SKETCHING AND SPATIAL SKILL DEVELOPMENT IN A CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT
Advanced spatial skills are needed for undergraduate geoscience students to succeed in their coursework, but many students struggle with concepts and tasks that require spatial thinking. Cognitive research has shown that sketching is a valuable tool for spatial skills development and geoscience instructors have also come to understand this through personal use and field exercises. However, there are logistical challenges to including frequent sketching in a course: turn-around time to grade many sketches, giving constructive feedback before bad habits are formed, and determining whether students are understanding concepts before moving on to new topics. Therefore, we reach an impasse between knowing that sketching is a strong strategy for learning and not being able to implement it frequently or effectively in the classroom. Working as a team of geoscience researchers, cognitive psychologists, and computer science researchers, we are developing a set of worksheets on geoscience concepts that utilize a sketching software program with a built-in virtual tutor (CogSketch). CogSketch can be used in a course to increase the frequency of sketching and immediate feedback with minimal added effort from instructors or TA’s. CogSketch allows students to sketch spatial concepts and relationships with a stylus or mouse and provides them with feedback (via the virtual tutor) about their sketch by comparing it to the instructor’s solution. The CogSketch geoscience worksheets that we have developed focus on four spatial skills that are difficult for students to master and are commonly used in geoscience: disembedding, scaling, understanding dynamic processes, and penetrative thinking. We tested 8 of these worksheets in an introductory geology class at Carleton College in the spring of 2013. Students learn the program within 20 minutes, complete each worksheet in 10-20 minutes, request feedback an average of 2 times per worksheet, and use the feedback to make changes to their sketches. Future work will include implementing the worksheets in more introductory geoscience courses in order to assess the effectiveness of worksheets in developing spatial skills needed for further geoscience coursework.