Investigating the Role of Students’ Representation Use Patterns on Spatial Thinking

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Halil Erhan, School of Interactive Arts and Technology

Project teamJohn Dill, School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Barbara Berry, Teaching and Learning Centre, and Akanksha Garg, research assistant

Timeframe: April 2017 to April 2018

Funding: $6000

Course addressed: IAT 106 – Spatial Thinking and Communicating

Description: We plan to investigate how IAT106 students develop spatial thinking skills through using three modes of representation (sketches, physical and digital models); determine if there is any relationship between the patterns of use of these representations and solving problems requiring spatial thinking, with respect to the completeness and quality of the solutions. We will subsequently develop a plan to revise teaching and learning activities and assessments based on the findings of our investigation.

Questions addressed:

  • How do the students use sketches, physical and digital models to solve a design problem requiring spatial thinking?
  • What are the affordances of each type of representation in terms of learning to solve spatial problems?
  • Which representational form do students prefer for analysis and synthesis?

Knowledge sharing: We gave a 30-minute presentation of our project and its outcome at SIAT’s School meeting on December 12, 2017. Following the presentation, we discussed the sketching and design problem solving in SIAT’s curriculum.

Keywords: spatial thinking; communication; sketching; physical models; digital models; problem solving; design representations; physical modeling; digital modeling; spatial
abilities; teaching spatial thinking; measuring teaching outcomes