Developing transferrable geospatial skills in a liberal arts context

Blake A. Colaianne, Matthew G. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Geology education usually takes place within the context of a broader curriculum, but specific synergies between disciplines have rarely been explored or exploited. Here, we have assessed the spatial visualization skills of undergraduate students in a variety of disciplines to determine which are most compatible with a geology curriculum. Spatial abilities are considered one of the most important cognitive skills in the geosciences but there has been little comparative work among disciplines (and particularly non-Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines). Our results demonstrate that geology students had the highest average spatial test scores (a mean of 16.4 out of a possible 20) among the 11 disciplines assessed, and this remained true even after correcting for the effects of gender and grade point average. Both physics and fine arts students also performed well on this assessment. A major implication of our study is that geology students can deliberately enhance their spatial abilities by taking courses in other fields, such as the fine arts, which are known to build those same abilities. In this way, geology curricula may be developed to maximize the benefits of a broad education and thus, ultimately, produce higher-performing geologists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-97
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Geoscience Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Developing transferrable geospatial skills in a liberal arts context'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this