Exploring the Spatial Alignment Hypothesis in STEM Learning Environments

Project: Research project

Project Details


Northwestern University Statement of Work – Gentner, Exploring the Spatial Alignment Hypothesis in STEM Learning Environments This proposal is in response to IES Request for Applications Education Research Grants CFDA Number 84.305A. Professor Dedre Gentner would serve as the project co-PI for all 4 years of the project. Professor Ken Forbus would serve as senior faculty for all 4 years of the project. The proposed research will explore how visualizations can be designed to maximize student learning in education. Visualizations such as graphs, worked examples, or diagrams are ubiquitous in education, particularly in STEM disciplines. To learn from visualizations, students are required to see past superficial features and understand their relational structure. This ability often requires that students compare structures - finding commonalities and differences - across multiple visual depictions that are arranged in space. Although such visual comparison is ubiquitous in laboratories, classrooms, and textbooks, surprisingly little is known about how to design and spatially arrange visuals to optimize what is learned. At Northwestern, Professor Gentner will assist with conducting laboratory testing with middle school students to test spatial alignment, contribute to study design and implementation, assist with data analysis and interpretation of results, and assist with writing up findings for publication. Professor Forbus will assist with material design and interpretation of results.
Effective start/end date8/1/177/31/22


  • WestEd (S-00014999//R305A170165)
  • Institute of Education Sciences (S-00014999//R305A170165)


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