2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 151-8
Presentation Time: 2:55 PM


ORMAND, Carol J., Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, SHIPLEY, Thomas F., Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, KIVEN, Charles, ExxonMobil Production Company, Houston, TX 77067, DAVIS, J. Steve, ExxonMobil Exploration Company, 22777 Springwoods Village Parkway, Spring, TX 77389, KLOPFER, Dale, Pschology Department, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43043 and VROLIJK, Peter, ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co, Science 1, 2A.478, 22777 Springwoods Village Parkway, Spring, TX 77389

Spatial thinking is pervasive in the geological sciences, and is essential within the petroleum industry. Work on characterizing the spatial thinking skills utilized in the geological sciences has revealed a broad array of skills, including (but not limited to) mental rotation, perspective taking, penetrative thinking, navigation, 3D visualization (volumetric thinking), and 4D visualization (mental animation). Measuring these skills in an individual is non-trivial, and is a prerequisite to assessing the development of spatial skills in an individual or comparing spatial skills between groups, such as undergraduate majors, graduate students, and professionals.

Ormand and Shipley have developed the Geologic Block Cross-sectioning Test to measure an individual’s visual penetrative ability. We have used this instrument to assess the visual penetrative thinking skills of undergraduate students and of petroleum industry employees . The results of these tests indicate significant differences (as would be expected) between the novice and expert populations in skill levels, but also in the kinds of errors they are most likely to make. The results also reveal significant differences within the professional population, according to gender and educational background.

The Geologic Block Cross-sectioning Test can be used to assess the relative sophistication of novices’ penetrative thinking, based on the number and types of their errors. It can also be used to assess the need for spatial visualization training and as a platform for discussion/training for industry professionals.