Paper No. 151-1
Presentation Time: 1:05 PM
OPPORTUNITIES TO PROMOTE VISUOSPATIAL SKILLS DEVELOPMENT AND GEOSCIENCE LEARNING IN THE NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS
There is overwhelming evidence that spatial thinking is associated with success in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and is also important for several geoscience tasks. This presentation explores two questions relevant to visuospatial skill development for K-12 geoscience: (1) how does spatial ability influence performance on geoscience assessments? and (2) what spatial skills are required for students to successfully meet the Performance Expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)? To answer the first question, a study evaluated the relationship between spatial ability and visual representations on a standardized high school geoscience assessment. Students’ spatial ability was positively associated with performance on assessment items containing visuals that were novel to the students; however, spatial ability was not associated with items containing visuals for which students had prior training in their classes. This suggests that the classroom training ameliorated the differences stemming from spatial ability and/or the training supported the development of visuospatial skills necessary to solve the problems with these particular visuals. As students and teachers face an expanded emphasis on visual representations and Earth and Space Science (ESS) concepts in the NGSS, geoscience educators need to be prepared to foster visuospatial skills in their students. The NGSS present exciting opportunities to engage students in developing spatial skills and problem solving with visual representations. The Science and Engineering Practices describe a progression where students develop and use models with increasing abstraction and sophistication over the K-12 experience. Specific to the geosciences, the ESS standards include a Performance Expectation that students can “develop a model to illustrate how Earth’s internal and surface processes operate at different spatial and temporal scales to form continental and ocean-floor features” (HS-ESS2-1, NGSS). Additional examples of how visuospatial thinking skills are emphasized in the NGSS will be presented. Future efforts to improve students’ spatial thinking skills and geoscience learning should capitalize on the opportunities provided by the near term implementation and assessment of the NGSS.