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Spatial Ability Development in the Geosciences
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- Spatial Ability Development in the Geosciences
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- We designed an experiment to evaluate change in students' spatial skills as a result of specific interventions. Our test subjects included high school students in earth science classes, college level non-science majors enrolled in large enrollment introductory geoscience courses and introductory level geoscience students. All students completed spatial tests to measure their ability to mentally rotate three-dimensional objects and to construct a three-dimensional object from a two-dimensional representation. Results show a steady improvement in spatial skills for all groups. They also indicate that students choosing science majors typically have much higher spatial skills as they enter college. Specific interventions to improve spatial skills included having a subgroup of the non-science majors and high school students complete a suite of Geographic Information System (GIS) activities. The intervention at the high school level was more extensive and resulted in significant improvements in both categories of spatial ability. At the college level, the non-science majors that received the intervention showed no significant difference from those that did not, probably because the time spent on the intervention was too short. The geoscience majors had nearly three times the improvement of non-science majors in both categories of spatial ability attributed to hands-on weekly laboratory experiences. These results reveal a wide range of abilities among all groups of students, and suggest that we evaluate teaching strategies in all courses to ensure that students can interpret and understand the visual imagery used in lectures.
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- University of Arizona
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- Hall-Wallace, Michelle
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