Poster Session F, Tuesday, March 26, 8:00 – 10:00 am, Pacific Concourse
Cognitive and neural effects of real-world geospatial education on deductive reasoning
Robert Cortes1, Dinh Nhi1, Emily Peterson2, Adam Weinberger1, Richard Daker1, Bob Kolvoord3, David Uttal4, Adam Green1; 1Georgetown University, 2American University, 3James Madison University, 4Northwestern University
Spatial thinking and deductive reasoning are critical for success in STEM fields. Moreover, according to the mental models theory, deductive reasoning depends on spatial thinking. Although spatial thinking ability has been shown to be malleable with appropriate training, spatial interventions are frequently examined in laboratory settings, and spatial thinking is not typically taught in schools. In the present study we examined the effects of taking a year-long high school course, the Geospatial Semester (GSS), during which students engaged in solving real-world spatial problems using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology. Participants were 190 high school students (79 GSS, 111 comparison) who completed computerized versions of a deductive reasoning task before and after the end of the school year. A subset of the students (n=61) completed the tasks in an MRI scanner. Behavioral results indicate that there was a significant effect of participation in the GSS course on deductive reasoning. Neural results indicate that GSS students showed increased activation in the parietal cortex during the deductive reasoning task; this increased activity was related to increased spatial ability and spatial habits of mind. Functional connectivity analysis showed increased connectivity to motor and parietal cortices during the task. Altogether, these results indicate that GSS students may have adopted a more spatial strategy for solving reasoning problems, which resulted in improved performance. These findings demonstrate that high school courses that educate students in geospatial technologies and spatial thinking can provide meaningful improvements in deductive reasoning, which may then translate into future achievement in STEM.
Topic Area: THINKING: Reasoning