This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Expanding the Measurement, Use, and Support of Spatial Reasoning in STEM and the Geosciences




Johnson, Elijah

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation



Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Spatial thinking has been well-described and characterized for many STEM fields, and there have been numerous studies that emphasize the importance of incorporating spatial opportunities early and often throughout curricula. However, there is still a gap in the research in implementing deliberate spatial training in curricula as well as the transfer of spatial thinking skills from academic to workforce settings. The goals of this dissertation are three-fold. Firstly, develop a survey to understand adults’ spatial reasoning, experience with spatial tasks, and confidence in spatial reasoning to determine how these metrics along with college major and career fields are related. Secondly, employ a spatially-rich geological activity to determine how the delivery method of pedagogical aides (e.g., physically vs virtually) affect performance on a topographical and geological activity and a geoscience spatial thinking instrument. Lastly, describe and characterize the challenges to and strategies for solving the spatial visualization items on this spatial instrument using eye-tracking data and retrospective interviews. This research highlights the value of instruction and collaboration in STEM and the geosciences.