Intro | Gesture | Navigation | Scaling | 3D Visualization and Transformations | Category Adjustment Model
Visualizing 3D and Transformations
We are studying 3D visualization and transformation in the context of the geosciences. The ability to mentally penetrate the interior of an object and visualize objects in 3D (is) key to success in the geosciences. Yet these are very difficult skills for geoscience students to master. We have several approaches aimed at improving these mental processes.
We are studying penetrative thinking as it relates to geoscience education. The ability to mentally penetrate the interior of an object is key to success in the geosciences yet it is a very difficult skill for students to master. We have several approaches aimed at improving penetrative thinking.
We have developed a measure of penetrative thinking (i.e., 3D visualization and transformation) called the Geo Block Test. This test requires students to incorporate information from multiple faces to penetrate or reason about the likely interior of the object. We are currently using this test as our measure of penetrative thinking.
Figure 1. An example of the Geologic Block Diagram Test
Within the domain of geoscience, students with high visual penetrative ability use spatial gestures to solve Geologic Block Diagrams (Ales & Riggs, 2011). Given the role of gesture in problem solving, gesture might facilitate penetrative thinking. We are examining whether gesture can improve performance on the Geologic Block Diagram test.
The ability to mentally penetrate the interior of an object relies on the integration of information from multiple faces. In the field, structural geologists take the exterior information presented at multiple outcrops and use it together to infer the underlying structure. Alignment can promote learning by emphasizing common spatial relationships (Christie and Gentner, 2010; Gentner and Sagi, 2006). In this project we use progressive alignment as a tool to help students understand that in order to visualize the interior of an object, one needs to incorporate information from multiple faces.
Penetrative thinking is challenging in part because the observers has to visualize a 2D object as a 3D figure. In this project we are examining whether experience with a 3D model of a geologic block diagram made of Play-doh (shown in Figure 1) will improve penetrative thinking.
Figure 1. An example of a Play-doh model of a geologic block diagram.
Mental Transformation (Ilyse Resnick)
This line of research attempts to categorize the role of mental transformation in geology, with additional goals of developing both educational strategies and assessments. Geologists self-report that they look at an outcrop and play back in their mind the sequence of transformations, mentally animating the transformations from the present spatial configurations (see fig. 1)back to horizontal sedimentary layers.
An initial study examined if geologists are objectively able to make such mental transformations, and, if they are, is the skill domain specific or domain general. An objective measure was developed using words that were transformed in one of three ways, and the task was to identify the word. To make the task more demanding additional characters were added in between each letter of the word (see fig. 2). Words were broken up into pieces along diagonal lines. These pieces were translated as if faulted (see fig. 3) or were randomly displaced (see fig. 4). Additionally, a set of third items were developed to address the potential role of disembedding, with the transformations separated by space (see fig. 5).
Geologists were significantly better than two control groups, with no difference in performance within groups between the faulted and randomly displaced items, suggesting the geologists have a domain general ability to make mental transformations that is superior to matched novices. All three groups performed better on the exploded words, however Geologists still outperformed both control groups. This finding suggests that while disembedding is helpful for this task, it is not the sole explanation for the Geologist’s skill. Important to note, geologists performed at the same rates on a mental rotation task as chemists (one control group from another science that requires spatial reasoning), but significantly outperformed the chemists on this task of mental transformation.
Currently, verbal protocols are being collected from geologists and novices to help categorize the specific strategy(ies) being employed. Future studies will aim to facilitate the expert strategies with novices, examine transfer to geologic content, and inclusion in a geoscience battery.
We are currently developing another measure of penetrative thinking in which students are asked about the shape of an object that penetrated a cylinder. Students are presented with the cylinder shown in Figure 1. They are told the white holes represent the entrance and exit of an object that penetrated the cylinder. They are then shown the array of possible objects (ranging from a circle to a teardrop shape) and asked to select the shape of the penetrating object.
Figure 1. An example of the cylinder task. The white holes represent the holes made by a penetrating object.