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Enhancing learning in the life sciences through spatial perception

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Recent educational research finds if students are encouraged to form mental images of events, objects and written or spoken words, learning of the material is enhanced. The inability to image an item may, in fact, hinder one's learning efforts in some disciplines. To find if low spatial apptitude does have a deleterious effect on learning in the life sciences, two hundred and fifty undergraduates taking a nonmajor's biology course were given tests to measure their visual-spatial awareness. Students falling more than one standard deviation from the mean were classified as low in spatial cognition and were randomly sorted into an experimental and a control group. Exercises known to enhance spatial understanding were conducted weekly with the experimental group. When the final grades for the course were examined at the end of the semester, it was found that students in the experimental group scored significantly better than the control group in the biology course. These students, however, did not reach the same level of proficiency as the students who were measuring high in spatial ability initially.

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Author information

Correspondence to Thomas R. Lord.

Additional information

He became interested in visual-spatial aptitude and its effect on learning as a doctoral student at Rutgers University and furthered his studies on the topic as a post-doc at Birmingham University in England. While there he worked with Janic Weikowski and I. MacFarlene Smith, two premier British researchers on spatial perception. Dr. Lord has published several articles on spatial learning and given numerous presentations on the topic in recent years.

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Lord, T.R. Enhancing learning in the life sciences through spatial perception. Innov High Educ 15, 5–16 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00889733

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