The importance of spatial thinking for geoscience education: Insights from the crossroads of geoscience and cognitive science

Lynn S. Liben, Sarah J. Titus

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

52 Scopus citations

Abstract

Many students enrolled in geoscience courses have poorly developed spatial skills that may impede their success in mastering geoscience methods and concepts. To illustrate the variety of spatial skills required in the geosciences, we analyze a hypothetical field day of a structural geologist from the perspective of spatial cognition. We discuss some of the cognitive processes required for selective geoscience tasks, including map reading, navigation, perception of orientation, measurement of strike and dip, and interpretation of spatial diagrams including cross sections and stereographic projections. We suggest teaching strategies for several spatially demanding geologic tasks. We also outline ideas for future interdisciplinary research that may contribute to the development and evaluation of curricula designed to improve students' mastery of geoscience and spatial thinking, and, simultaneously, contribute to the field of cognitive science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEarth and Mind II
Subtitle of host publicationA Synthesis of Research on Thinking and Learning in the Geosciences
PublisherGeological Society of America
Pages51-70
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780813724867
DOIs
StatePublished - 2012

Publication series

NameSpecial Paper of the Geological Society of America
Volume486
ISSN (Print)0072-1077

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology

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