GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 284-3
Presentation Time: 8:45 AM


ORMAND, Carol J., Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College St, Northfield, MN 55057, SHIPLEY, Thomas F., Department of Psychology, Temple University, 1701 North 13th Street, Weiss Hall, RM 315, Philadelphia, PA 19122 and TIKOFF, Basil, Department of Geoscience, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1215 W Dayton St, Madison, WI 53706,

Over the past ten years, we – a cognitive scientist, a structural geologist, and a geoscience education researcher, have worked together to develop tools to support spatial thinking in the context of geoscience education. Our work has focused on four goals: characterizing the spatial thinking tasks inherent in doing geoscience, from a cognitive perspective; measuring spatial thinking and learning; supporting spatial thinking and learning; supporting the design and development of new tools for spatial thinking and learning. We have learned two key, generalizable lessons from this work: 1. The interrelations among tools is complex and we needed to expand our initial conceptions of what a tool was. 2. A cycle of education design profited from both an understanding of the material to be learned and a theory of what was happening in the mind of the learner.

We will present a suite of the tools that we have developed through this collaboration, and in the process will describe many of the lessons we have learned along the way. Our typology of spatial thinking skills in the geosciences provides a theoretical framework for understanding the cognitive challenges inherent in spatial tasks in the geosciences. Our spatial thinking tests provide means for measuring students’ abilities to mentally fold, slice through, or un-fault faulted objects. Our research into the most effective use of common teaching strategies – including gesture, sketching, and analogy – offer insights into best practices in classroom teaching. Our curricular materials, incorporating what we have learned from that research, support the development of undergraduate students’ spatial thinking skills and also offer models for others to develop or revise their own teaching materials. Our curricular materials include two dozen sketching exercises for Physical Geology courses – utilizing a sketch recognition software, for automated grading – and two dozen Spatial Workbook exercises for upper-level undergraduate Geology courses, all available via the SERC website.