Complex folds in Anti-Atlas Mountains of Algeria. Image from Google Earth.

Journal Club Overview

This journal club provided an opportunity to dive into the literature on spatial thinking, particularly in the context of the geosciences, and to discuss it in depth with interested colleagues.

Journal Club Goals

Our goals were to:

  • Explore the cognitive underpinnings of spatial thinking.
  • Develop a more sophisticated understanding of the role that spatial thinking plays in geoscience learning and research.
  • Develop a list of research-based recommended strategies for faculty teaching spatial thinking skills.
  • Create a network of leaders in geoscience education and cognitive science who can increase our understanding of the role of spatial thinking in the geosciences.

Readings and Discussion Themes

  • January: Cognitive aspects of spatial thinking
    • Hegarty, 2010, Components of Spatial Intelligence. In B. H. Ross (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, v. 52, pp. 265-297. San Diego: Academic Press.
    • Kozhevnikov et al., 2005, Spatial Versus Object Visualizers: A New Characterization of Visual Cognitive Style. Memory and Cognition, v. 33, n. 4, pp. 710-726.
  • February: Spatial thinking within the STEM disciplines
    • Uttal and Cohen, in press, Spatial Thinking and STEM Education: When, Why, and How? To appear in B. H. Ross (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation.
  • March: Spatial thinking training in the geosciences
    • Piburn et al., 2005, The Role of Visualization in Learning From Computer-Based Images. International Journal of Science Education, v. 27, n. 5, pp. 513-527.
    • The online tutorials developed by Steve Reynolds et al., described in the Piburn et al. article: Visualizing Topography (more info) and GeoBlocks 3D (more info)
    • Titus and Horsman, 2009, Characterizing and Improving Spatial Visualization Skills. Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 57, n. 4, pp. 242-254.
  • April: Navigation
    • Ishikawa and Montello, 2006, Spatial knowledge acquisition from direct experience in the environment: Individual differences in the development of metric knowledge and the integration of separately learned places. Cognitive Psychology, v. 52, pp. 93-129.
    • Liu, Levy, Barton and Iaria, 2011, Age and gender differences in various topographical orientation strategies. Brain Research, v. 1410, pp. 112-119.
  • May: Recommendations for geoscience education research
    • Piburn, Kraft, and Pacheco, 2011, A New Century for Geoscience Education Research. Prepared for the National Academies Board on Science Education Committee on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Discipline-Based Education Research.

Meeting Dates and Times

  • Dates: January 26, February 23, March 22, April 19, May 17
  • Times: 10:00-11:00 Pacific | 11:00-12:00 Mountain | 12:00-1:00 Central | 1:00-2:00 Eastern


To facilitate a deep exploration of this topic, participants were expected to

  • Digest the readings and post questions, comments, or thoughts on a discussion board each month
  • Attend and contribute to all five discussion sessions

Application and Selection Criteria

Applications were due November 21, 2011. The journal club was limited to 10 participants. Participants were selected with the goal of assembling a group with expertise in spatial thinking in the geosciences and spatial cognition, as well as a spectrum of institutional settings and teaching experiences and a diversity of participants. Preference was given to applicants who hold faculty positions at colleges and universities and who can attend all five meetings. Applicants were notified of selection in December. For more information see our page on general information for Cutting Edge workshop participants.


We posted a summary of what we learned and our recommendations for research on spatial thinking in the geosciences.