This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Effectiveness of the Augmented Reality Sandbox for Improving Spatial Thinking in Undergraduates




Johnson, Elijah

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis



Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



Spatial reasoning ability is a necessary skill for success in any of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) domains. Research suggests that spatial thinking ability and exposure to opportunities aimed at developing spatial reasoning skills through educational training could impact a student’s decision to select a STEM or non-STEM course of study or impact their decision to remain in STEM career path (Wai et al., 2009, Kell & Lubinski, 2013). Geology is one such field that may be impacted by spatial thinking skills. Students that have less spatial thinking ability could have a more difficult time learning geological concepts (Ishakawa & Kastens, 2005). However, spatial ability is malleable and can improve with intervention and training (Uttal et al., 2013). The heavy reliance on spatial ability to understand many geological concepts, like cartography and topography (Woods et al., 2016; Giorgis et al., 2017), makes researching innovative methods and technologies to train spatial skills a necessity in the geosciences. Several recent publications have utilized the augmented reality (AR) sandbox in the undergraduate classroom (Woods et al., 2017; Giorgis et al., 2017), and there has been some research suggesting that a student’s spatial thinking ability impacts their performance on topographic map assessments after exposure to AR sandbox (McNeal et al., 2019), but there has been no evidence to determine whether the AR sandbox can improve students’ spatial reasoning ability. This study aimed to determine the effectiveness of the AR sandbox for improving the spatial thinking of low scoring students. We also explored how students’ experiences with the spatial training activities impacted their self-reflections of their overall spatial thinking skills. Furthermore, we aimed to understand which activities they perceived to best support their spatial skill development to create an effective pedagogical intervention for undergraduate geoscience classrooms.