Friday, March 22, 2013, RI-224
*What Can We Learn about Children’s Spatial Thinking during Block and Brick Play and Its Potential Connections with STEM? The Development and Prospective Use of a Practitioner-Based Coding System for Activities Involving Spatial Cognition
Abstract: Spatial cognition is intrinsically important for children to learn in the twenty-first century classroom because it engenders critical thinking and facilitates student engagement in numerous STEM related activities that involve the ability to think flexibly about a variety of representations and phenomena. According to the National Research Council, spatial skills are essential in almost all scientific occupations and endeavors. Although recognized as a critical learning goal, spatial cognition—an indispensable area for developing the conceptual knowledge required in STEM disciplines and professions—has generally been ignored in the mathematics curriculum. In our present-day environment of performance-based assessment, this lack of attention can contribute to gaps in analytical and investigative thinking ability in later years.
Given a strong propensity toward pattern and shape activity during free play, the space-geometry-architecture (SPAGAR) assessment tool was designed to identify more specific categories in spatial and geometric thinking when observing young children building structures with blocks and bricks. The central premise of the SPAGAR instrument is that it can be used to identify both universal and culturally bound conceptions of space and geometry as well as basic architectural principles among four- to six-year-old children. A second goal of developing such an instrument is to discover possible relationships between everyday spatial activity and STEM fields. My future research agenda with SPAGAR will be to (a) adapt the research version of this assessment tool (SPAGAR-R) into an accessible version for practitioners (SPAGAR-P); and (b) establish and evaluate the psychometric properties and practical feasibility of SPAGAR-P.