Exploring visuospatial thinking in chemistry learning

Hsin Kai Wu, Priti Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

314 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In this article, we examine the role of visuospatial cognition in chemistry learning. We review three related kinds of literature: correlational studies of spatial abilities and chemistry learning, students' conceptual errors and difficulties understanding visual representations, and visualization tools that have been designed to help overcome these limitations. On the basis of our review, we conclude that visuospatial abilities and more general reasoning skills are relevant to chemistry learning, some of students' conceptual errors in chemistry are due to difficulties in operating on the internal and external visuospatial representations, and some visualization tools have been effective in helping students overcome the kinds of conceptual errors that may arise through difficulties in using visuospatial representations. To help students understand chemistry concepts and develop representational skills through supporting their visuospatial thinking, we suggest five principles for designing chemistry visualization tools: (1) providing multiple representations and descriptions, (2) making linked referential connections visible, (3) presenting the dynamic and interactive nature of chemistry, (4) promoting the transformation between 2D and 3D, and (5) reducing cognitive load by making information explicit and integrating information for students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-492
Number of pages28
JournalScience Education
Volume88
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2004 May

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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