Webinars - Detail

An interdisciplinary approach to Understanding and Promoting Spatial Learning Processes in the Geosciences
Drs. Thomas Shipley (Temple Univ.), Nicole LaDue (N. Illinois Univ.), and Mike Brudzinski (Miami Univ. of Ohio)


An interdisciplinary network of cognitive psychologists, education researchers, and geoscience educators have come together to identify new spatial learning principles by designing teaching tools that can be applied across classroom and field courses in the geosciences. Supporting the development of spatial thinking in a science curriculum requires an interdisciplinary effort that combines knowledge of the disciplinary science with education and psychology expertise. The network is designed to create a "trading zone" where theory and practice converge so that research on education and cognitive psychology can be influenced by disciplinary geoscience content, and vice versa, to result in new designs for teaching tools and new insights into the working of the human mind-brain.

The network seeks to expand our fundamental understanding of the science of learning by characterizing the different types of spatial reasoning required for the practice of a complex spatial science, and to develop new supports for spatial learning challenges that have been barriers for student learning. Tools developed in this project are designed to allow students to self-correct conceptual errors in their understanding of scientific concepts. The practice of the network will be illustrated with two examples of the application of: 1) Spatial feedback, which is feedback in the form of a spatial error that allows the mind-brain to guide learning, And 2) Spatial accommodation, which is the constructing and reconstructing of mental models to accurately incorporate spatial information to improve inaccurate mental models from spatial feedback.

Geoscientists are required to make sense of information using multiple spatial frames of reference. A complex example may be deciphering the sequence of tectonic events from a complex outcrop. Students make predictable errors from a simple frame of reference problem; when asked to predict where the next volcanic crater will form based on plate motion, students commonly respond with an incorrect answer that is opposite of the correct answer. Similarly, geoscientists must make sense of some complex spatial patterns by visualizing non-rigid transformations. When students are asked to predict the direction and magnitude of motion as reported by GPS around an active fault they make systematic errors, as well.

In the second installment of the IRIS webinar series on Geoscience Education Research, researchers will present a model and suggestions for developing an interdisciplinary network, examples of spatial problems facing students in your classes, and suggestions for classroom practice that can help students overcome spatial challenges.


Last updated Key Points

In this webinar, you will learn about:

  • an interdisciplinary team that has identified new spatial learning principles
  • specifically designed teaching tools that can be applied across classroom and field courses in the geosciences
  • results from the team of new designs for teaching tools and new insights into the working of the human mind-brain