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PERC 2013 Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: Influences of Spatial/Visual Abilities on the Learning Process
Abstract: Studies in various Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields have suggested that in order to succeed in these courses, students need to have either high spatial/visual skills or have the ability to develop their skills simultaneously while taking their courses.  Studies in engineering, conducted by Sheryl Sorby and colleagues, have shown significant gains in retention of students, as well as gains in GPA, by providing instruction to improve spatial skills of incoming undergraduate students.  Physics, on the other hand, has focused on targeted areas of correlation instead of courses as a whole.  For example, studies have shown that there are correlations between projectile motion and spatial/visualization skills, but there have not been a lot of studies focused on the entire courses.  This session is designed to highlight research that was/is conducted in physics and engineering.
Abstract Type: Talk Symposium

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Ximena C. Cid
University of Washington
3910 15th Ave. NE
Box: 351560
Seattle, WA 98195-1560
Phone: (206) 543-9813
Fax: (206) 543-9702

Symposium Specific Information

Moderator: Ximena C. Cid
Presentation 1 Title: Interactive Competer Simulations: Do they impact the learning process?
Presentation 1 Authors: Ximena C. Cid: Postdoc with the Physics Education Group in the Department of Physisc at the University of Washington
Presentation 1 Abstract: Physics relies on students' spatial abilities due to the abstract nature of the subject matter.  In some cases the increase in cognitive load, due to mental manipulation of abstract ideas like electric and/or magnetic fields, can inhibit the learning process.  There is evidence that suggest the use of simulations can increase the learning process by reducing the cognitive load imposed by mental manipulation of spatial topics.  This work will focus on examining the relationship between using interactive simulations with the learning process, in conjunction with the tutorials at the University of Washington.
Presentation 2 Title: Probing impact of spatial reasoning skills on conceptual understanding of physics
Presentation 2 Authors: Mila Kryjevskaia
Presentation 2 Abstract: This talk will discuss approaches that may allow researchers to probe the extent to which student performance on some physics problems hinges on student ability to visualize and reason spatially.  The degree of association between student performance on physics-specific questions and on a spatial visualization test will be examined and discussed.
Presentation 3 Title: Investigating Study on the Correlation Between High School Student Mental Rotation Test (MRT) Scores and State Assessment Scores and Grades in STEM Classes
Presentation 3 Authors: Alfonso Hinojosa: Ph.D. student with the Department of Physics at the University of Texas, Arlington and full time high school teacher with the Laredo school district located in Laredo, Texas
Presentation 3 Abstract: This talk will discuss the assessment of college bound high school students' spatial skills as compared to undergraduate physics students at UT Arlington.
Presentation 4 Title: Using Real-Time Data Display to Improve Conceptual Understanding and Spatial Visualization Ability
Presentation 4 Authors: Ronald Thornton: Director and Professor with the Center for Science & Math Teaching at Tufts University
Presentation 4 Abstract: Students who take active learning physics courses that use real-time data collection and display show improvements in spatial visualization ability as measured by standard tests. Teachers in a two-week workshop using such materials also improved. There is an initial correlation between spatial ability and performance of the Force & Motion Conceptual Evaluation.
Presentation 5 Title: Improving Student Success through Spatial Skills Intervention
Presentation 5 Authors: Sheryl Sorby: Professor Emerita of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech) and Visiting Professor in the Engineering Education and Innovation Center at The Ohio State University
Presentation 5 Abstract: Dr. Sheryl Sorby has been conducting research in the area of engineering education and her primary focus of research is on improving the 3-D spatial visualization skills of engineering students. The ability to visualize in three dimensions is a cognitive skill that has been shown to be important for success in engineering and other technological fields. For engineering, the ability to mentally rotate 3-D objects is especially important. Unfortunately, of all the cognitive skills, 3-D rotation abilities exhibit robust gender differences, favoring males. The assessment of 3-D spatial skills and associated gender differences has been a topic of educational research for nearly a century; however, a great deal of the previous work has been aimed at merely identifying differences. Dr. Sorby has been conducting research aimed at identifying practical methods for improving 3-D spatial skills, especially for women engineering students. This presentation details the significant findings obtained over the past several years through this research and identifies strategies that appear to be effective in developing 3-D spatial skills and in contributing to student success.