News & Events

Tamera Jones

Posted on November 18, 2020


Date - November 18, 2020
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


Title: The Role of Visuo-Spatial Ability for Problem Solving in Chemistry


Problem solving in chemistry often requires generation, manipulation, and analysis of mental images that are generated in the brain when interpreting spatial information embedded in external representations. This set of skills has been defined as visuo-spatial ability, or person’s capacity to analyze, generate, and manipulate objects in the brain. Consequentially, it has been thought that proficient spatial ability is an integral part of the skill set necessary to digest information that is encoded in external representations. For this reason, it was argued that spatial ability can be predictive of student success in learning chemistry. In fact, studies have shown that high spatial ability is indeed associated with higher grades in chemistry. However, when it comes to solving problems in organic chemistry, some students rely on spatial-imagistic strategies (creating and manipulating internal visualizations in the brain), whereas others rely on algorithmic-diagrammatic strategies (diverse analytical heuristics that help deduce complex spatial operations without generating mental images). It was found that students using either of these strategies can be just as successful in organic chemistry. Research also shows that spatial thinking might depend upon students’ developing representational competence rather than spatial ability. It is argued that educational interventions that target representational competence may be effective at supporting spatial thinking.