Developing visual-spatial thinking in youth using sensorimotor experiences: Approaches from a Piagetian cognitive framework

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Andrea Dawn Frazier
Camille Bryant


Shaping OurSpace was an urban planning project asking children to propose plans for a housing project phased for redevelopment.  Our primary aim was building visual-spatial thinking.  McCormack’s (1988, 2011) hierarchical framework was used to operationalize visual-spatial thinking, and we believe that embodied cognition served as a vehicle for fostering visual-spatial thinking not only in rudimentary ways but also more conceptually.  Thus, although our study did not depend on Piaget and Inhelder’s (1956) developmental approach to spatial reasoning, their work provides theoretical insight that supports assumptions underlying our work. We highlight two areas of connection between Piaget and Inhelder’s theory on spatial reasoning development and our methodology across the 2 phases of our project:  1) Piaget and Inhelder privilege sensorimotor experiences as the bases for spatial reasoning, and 2) Piaget and Inhelder argue that spatial reasoning occurs in 2 phases – via perception and via imagination and thought.  We argue that Piaget and Inhelder’s arguments about spatial reasoning remain decidedly relevant in understanding how to potentially facilitate this reasoning in children.

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Author Biographies

Andrea Dawn Frazier, Columbus State University

Dr. Andrea Dawn Frazier has a PhD in educational psychology, and she currently teaches in the Department of Counseling, Foundations, and Leadership at Columbus State University. Her research interests encompass the educative experience of students of color and girls.   Recent work explores possible selves and academic self-concept in high-ability African American students and spatial reasoning in elementary aged children. She is co-editor of “Special Populations in Gifted Education: Understanding Our Most Able Students from Diverse Backgrounds” with Dr. Jaime Castellano. 

Camille Bryant, Johns Hopkins University

Camille Bryant is an Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Education. As a research methodologist, she is the Research Methods Coordinator for the EdD program and teaches research methods courses across a variety of program areas. Her research interests focus on the use of advanced methodological approaches to examine the impact of program implementation on student outcomes. She aims to better understand how contextual variables influence teachers’ implementation of programs and the combined effect on student outcomes. Prior to becoming a professor, she worked with refugee children as an Americorps VISTA. She also taught in the inner city as a Teach for America corps member.