The effect of Spatial Anxiety on training spatial reasoning

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


Katharine Johanesen, Juniata College
Territa Poole, Juniata College
Katherine Ryker, University of South Carolina-Columbia

Spatial reasoning skills are an important component of student development in geoscience. While ability levels vary between individuals, these skills are trainable. Recently, Spatial Anxiety has been recognized as a contributing factor to performance on tests of spatial abilities. Spatial Anxiety is defined by Lyons et al. as the "fear or apprehension towards spatial processing" (2018), who developed a Spatial Anxiety Scale. It correlates with lower performance on spatial reasoning tasks. To test whether this effect moderates skill gains from spatial training, we measured the Manipulation subscale of Spatial Anxiety on the pretest portion of an experiment to measure the effects of training on spatial abilities. Spatial reasoning was measured using the Visualization of Views (VoV) and Water Level Task (WLT) tests in a pretest-posttest format. Students in an introductory college geology course were divided by lab section into experimental and standard training groups to learn the skill of measuring strike and dip. The experimental group learned the skill through a Virtual Reality module, while the standard group participated in classroom-based practice.

As predicted by Lyons et al. (2018), we found a negative correlation between Spatial Anxiety and pretest scores on VoV (B=-0.23, p=0.057, n=100) and WLT (B=-0.05, p=0.023, n=145).
Spatial Anxiety also has a significant effect on VoV and WLT improvement scores. Spatial Anxiety negatively correlated with VoV improvement scores (B=-0.203, p=0.039, n=46), as expected. Surprisingly, higher Spatial Anxiety correlates with WLT higher improvement scores (B=0.045, p=0.015, n=89). There were no interaction effects between training condition and Spatial Anxiety. This indicates that, while Spatial Anxiety may predict lower spatial scores, it does not reduce the potential of training to improve those scores, including training involving Virtual Reality.