Establishing The Empirical Relationship Between Non-Science Majoring Undergraduate Learners’ Spatial Thinking Skills And Their Conceptual Astronomy Knowledge
The astronomy education community has tacitly assumed that learning astronomy is a conceptual domain resting upon spatial thinking skills. As a first step to formally identify an empirical relationship, undergraduate students in a non-major introductory astronomy survey class at a mediumsized, Ph.D. granting, mid-western US university were given pre- and post-astronomy conceptual
diagnostics and spatial reasoning diagnostics, instruments used were the “Test Of Astronomy Standards”
and “What Do You Know?” Using only fully matched data for analysis, our sample consisted of 86 undergraduate non-science majors. Students’ normalized gains for astronomy surveys were low at .26 and .13 respectively. Students’ spatial thinking was measured using an instrument designed specifically for this study. Correlations between the astronomy instruments’ pre- to post-course gain scores and the spatial assessment instrument show moderate to strong relationships suggesting the relationship between spatial reasoning and astronomy ability can explain about 25% of the variation in student achievement.