GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 264-10
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


GUTIERREZ, Joseph Miguel1, AKCIZ, Sinan O.1 and BURSZTYN, Natalie2, (1)California State University - Fullerton, Department of Geological Sciences, 800 N State College Blvd, Fullerton, CA 92831, (2)Quest University, 3200 University Blvd, Squamish, BC V8B0N8, Canada

Spatial visualization is crucial to success in the geosciences, especially in courses such as sedimentology and stratigraphy, structural geology, and field techniques. Students with the spatial visualization abilities necessary to succeed in these courses are more likely to continue in the geosciences. Unfortunately, an overwhelming proportion of students are unprepared for spatially intensive coursework due to a lack of spatial training in K-12 and undergraduate education. Previous studies have demonstrated that spatial visualization abilities are malleable skills that can be trained efficiently and inexpensively, yet widespread spatial training is uncommon. With this project, we propose the use of 3D-printed geologic block models as tools for fostering spatial visualization abilities in conjunction with an introductory-level geologic structures lab exercise. Recent advances in 3D-printing technologies are making 3D-printing more accessible to educators, and material designs can be shared with educators around the world.

We are using a pretest-posttest experimental design to test the efficacy of our 3D-printed models as tools for fostering three spatial visualization abilities important to the geosciences - spatial rotation, spatial manipulation, and visual penetrative ability. Spatial visualization and demographic background surveys were used to collect data from introductory geology laboratory students who completed a geologic structures lab as part of their coursework. To date, 298 students have completed the lab without blocks, and 83 students have completed the lab with blocks. The data collected are being used to answer the following questions - (i) Does teaching geologic structures with the assistance of 3D-printed block models impact students’ spatial visualization abilities? (ii) Do student demographics such as gender and ethnicity have statistically significant impacts on the development of spatial visualization abilities? Preliminary data analyses indicate that students with access to blocks improve more in their spatial manipulation ability when compared to students without blocks, while the opposite is true for spatial rotation and visual penetrative ability. Furthermore, the current dataset indicates that student demographics do not have an impact on these trends.