Characterizing the Growth in Spatial Thinking Abilities in Meteorology Students Across the Curriculum

Friday 3:00pm-4:00pm
Poster Session Part of Friday Poster Session

Session Chairs

Lauren Decker, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Casey Davenport, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Spatial thinking skills are essential to student success in disciplines such as geology, atmospheric science, and geography. In particular, previous work on spatial thinking in the atmospheric sciences has demonstrated that skills such as mental animation, disembedding, and perspective taking have been shown to be important for interpreting, understanding, and predicting the four-dimensional atmosphere. However, when students develop and build on such skills as they progress through the meteorology curriculum is unknown. In this study, the Spatial Thinking Abilities Test (STAT) is used to quantify the extent of spatial thinking abilities in undergraduate students enrolled in courses required for the meteorology major at a large public university in the southeastern United States. Using a subset of 12 multiple choice questions, STAT is administered twice a semester in each course as a pre-test and post-test. Starting in Spring 2022 continuing through Spring 2023, data was collected from students across 10 courses. This presentation will discuss semester-level gains in spatial thinking and provide comparisons in spatial thinking abilities based on various demographic subgroups, including gender, major, and level of expertise in meteorology. Performance on questions testing specific spatial thinking skills will also be described. Finally, to characterize the progression in spatial thinking abilities, students who completed the STAT over multiple semesters will be identified and followed through each administration of the test. The long-term goal of this study is identify where improvements can be made in the undergraduate meteorology curriculum to enhance the success of all students.