Paper No. 15
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
EVIDENCE FOR INCREASE IN SPATIAL VISUALIZATION SKILLS AS A RESULT OF GEOLOGICAL FIELD INSTRUCTION
Geology, by its nature, demands high levels of visualization skills that span a variety of visualization styles. Various studies have shown that exposure to geology in the field improves students’ abilities to recognize and solve visually demanding and spatially complex geologic problems. However, it is still unclear which visualization skills are being improved, and by what degree. In this study, 42 field camp students from an established summer field program participated in cognitive assessments to measure their visual styles and levels of skill. The Mental Rotations Test is designed to measure a person’s ability to visualize how an object would appear when rotated in 3-dimensional space. The Hidden Figures Test is designed to measure a person’s ability to recognize shapes and patterns that are embedded in a more complex image. These assessments measure two distinctly different cognitive visualization styles. These assessments were administered twice during a six-week field course, once at the beginning of camp, and again at the end of camp. Students were also monitored in targeted field exercises for styles of interaction with particular outcrops hypothesized to activate or require the use of these specific spatial skills. Standard geologic performance measures such as maps and cross sections were also collected. The goals of this project were to ascertain whether students improved upon their visualization skills through field camp, determine whether students with a particular preferred visualization style excelled at certain types of geologic problems, and to determine if students’ assessment scores correlate to their overall performance in the course. Preliminary results show that the majority of students increased their cognitive assessment scores on one or both assessments over the course of the six weeks. This may suggest that six weeks of visually intensive geologic fieldwork could improve visualization skills, although the details of potential causal relations remain unclear. Most students who scored highly on one or both of the cognitive assessments also did well overall in the field course, consistent with observations by many other researchers in this area.