2018 GSA Workshop

Strengthening Students' Spatial Thinking Skills

Date and Location

This short course will take place from 1-5 PM on Saturday, November 3, 2018, in the JW Marriott (10 S. West St.), Room 108, at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Indianapolis, IN. Participants must pre-register through the Geological Society of America.

Workshop Leaders

Thomas F. Shipley, Psychology, Temple University
Nicole LaDue, Geology, Northern Illinois University
Carol J. Ormand, Science Education Resource Center (SERC), Carleton College


This short course will focus on developing geoscience students' spatial thinking skills through research-based curricular materials. We will focus on strategies and tools that support students with a range of spatial skills without imposing additional burdens on the instructor. We will highlight two spatial learning principles: spatial feedback and spatial accommodation. Spatial feedback is feedback in the form of spatial information that allows students to see and correct any errors they made due to an incorrect mental model. Spatial accommodation is the adjustment needed to revise mental models based on spatial feedback. This accommodation can be in the form of small adjustments to a mental model, significant reconstruction of an existing mental model, or development of an entirely new mental model. We will review the cognitive science research related to spatial feedback and spatial accommodation and will show examples of curricular materials that incorporate these principles. Curricular materials will be suitable for a range of class sizes and course levels.

Participants should come prepared with assignments that students find challenging. The second half of the short course will be work time to develop materials for providing spatial feedback to students working on these problems, in consultation with the leaders.


Read the details of the workshop program.

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