Theses Doctoral

Developing Visuospatial Thinking Skills

Kornkasem, Sorachai

Visuospatial thinking skills are essential for many professional and educational fields, including science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.). The ability to rotate objects mentally is foundational to various types of spatial abilities, e.g. spatial visualization, perspective taking, spatial relations, etc. (Caroll, 1993). In order to attain and maintain mental rotation skills, the process of explicit decomposing the movements involved during the rotational process is required to embolden learning and conceptualization. In pilot studies, I found when learners verbally confirm the thinking and planning methods before performing rotation tasks, it helps learners formulate a complete mental rotation understanding. Moreover, this augments learners’ abilities to transfer the skill to other types of spatial oriented tasks.
The dissertation study further investigated how explicitly planning as a type of training during 3D manipulations helps learners improve their abilities at mental rotation and other spatial thinking skills. Students from New York City metropolitan area (n=127) were recruited and consented to participate in the study. Using a 2x2 factorial between-subjects design plus a control, students were randomly assigned to one level of propositional explanation (explicit propositional integration vs. without) and one of training environment or rotational method (computer-assisted vs. physical-manipulation), or to a control group (no rotation). In the manipulation, learners operated the rotation of seven distinct stimuli in either single or multiple rotations for a total of 42 training trials over two 50-minute sessions on two separate days. I assessed mental rotation abilities using a pre and post repeated measures of the Vandenberg and Kuse Mental Rotation Task and two standardized post-assessments, the Surface Development Task for near transfer of rotational skills and the far transfer of the Topographical Map Assessment.
Overall, this dissertation confirmed that learners who engaged in explicitly integrating propositional in explaining their planning process improved in their 3D Spatial thinking skills and outperformed students who did not explicitly integrate their plans to complete the same spatial tasks on both the direct and near transfer tasks. There were no differences on the measures of far transfer. Results from this study can inform professionals ranging from educators to instructional designers as well as child developmentalists and caretakers. By coupling explicit explanations with internal spatial thinking, individuals can improve their 3D spatial thinking skills with prospects for benefits that extend not only into everyday activities but additional activities in S.T.E.A.M. related endeavors.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Human Development
Thesis Advisors
Black, John B.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 11, 2016