The project uses a longitudinal, cross-sectional, and comparative research design and will generate evidence that is descriptive [observational], associative/correlational [quasi-experimental], and causal [quasi-experimental, statistical modeling, difference-in-difference]. Original data are being collected on 90 high school students enrolled in the Geospatial Semester program (and a comparison group) using school records, assessments of learning, observation [videography], and survey research [self-completion questionnaire, structured interviewer-administered questionnaire, semi-structured or informal interview] and brain imaging. Geospatial Semester (GSS), a dual enrollment high school course that uses GIS technology to teach spatial thinking, is being compared to advanced high school science courses.
Instruments or measures being used include:
- Mental Rotation Task (Shepard & Metzler, 1971): Participants judge whether a complex figure is a rotated version of another figure. Measures dynamic spatial reasoning.
- Embedded Figures Task (Witkin et al., 1971): A measure of static spatial reasoning in which participants identify which of two complex structures contains a presented figure element.
- Transfer and Scientific Reasoning Assessment: Scenario-based assessment of STEM reasoning and problem solving.
- Geospatial Thinking Scale (Huynh & Sharpe, 2013): Measurement of expertise in geoscience using real-world problems that require reasoning about spatial relations and patterns.
The difference-in-difference approach and regression models will be used to examine change in core spatial abilities and STEM-based spatial reasoning. MRI analysis will compare pre- and post-test activation in the ROIs and use machine learning classifiers. Sex differences will be examined using these methods for the behavioral and fMRI data.