How The Mind Processes Complex Spatial Information
Psychologist discusses how partnership helped facilitate students’ learning of basic spatial reasoning
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University’s David H. Uttal discussed a program that has enhanced students’ learning at a variety of levels, from basic spatial reasoning to solving complex problems involving the coordination of numerous variables, such as those involved in climate change, as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in San Jose, California.
The program is a partnership between a cognitive scientist and an environmental scientist that facilitates high school students’ reasoning about complex real-world scientific and engineering problems through the use of computer-based layered maps.
According to Uttal, the program has enhanced students’ learning at a variety of levels, from basic spatial reasoning to solving complex problems involving the coordination of numerous variables, such as those involved in climate change.
Uttal is a professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and professor of education in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University.
He has conducted extensive research on cognitive development, spatial cognition, symbolic development and mathematical thinking. His recent work has examined how training influences spatial thinking and how much is needed.
Improving spatial skills is important because children who do well at spatial tasks such as reading maps and assembling puzzles are likely to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Uttal, also the director of graduate studies in the department of psychology at Northwestern, presented “Promoting Spatially Based Scientific Reasoning with Geographic Information Systems” at AAAS.
His presentation was part of the symposium “Learning from Visualization: Insights from STEM and Cognitive Science Collaboration” held Monday, Feb. 16.