Effect of gis learning on spatial ability



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Texas A&M University


This research used a spatial skills test and cognitive-mapping test to examine the effect of GIS learning on the spatial ability and spatial problem solving of college students. A total of 80 participants, undergraduate students at Texas A&M University, completed pre- and post- spatial skills tests administered during the 2003 fall semester. Analysis of changes in the students?? test scores revealed that GIS learning could help students improve their spatial ability. Strong correlations existed between the participants?? spatial ability and their performance in the GIS course. The research also found that spatial ability improvement linked to GIS learning was not significantly related to differences in gender or to academic major (geography majors vs. science and engineering majors). A total of 64 participants, recruited from students enrolled in Introduction to GIS and Computer Cartography at Texas A&M University, completed pre- and post- cognitive-mapping tests administered during the 2003 fall semester. Students?? performance on the cognitive-mapping test was used to measure their spatial problem solving. The study assumed that the analysis of the individual map-drawing strategies would reveal information about the cognitive processes participants used to solve their spatial tasks. The participants were requested to draw a map that could help their best friends find their way to three nearby commercial locations. The map-drawing process was videotaped in order to allow the researcher to classify subjects?? map-drawing strategies. The study identified two distinctive map-drawing strategies: hierarchical and regional. Strategies were classified as hierarchical when subjects began by drawing the main road network across the entire map, and as regional when they completed mapping sub-areas before moving on to another sub-area. After completion of a GIS course, a significant number of participants (about half) changed their map-drawing strategies. However, more research is necessary to address why these changes in strategy came about.