Chapter 14: Disciplining Perception Spatial Thinking in Organic Chemistry Through Embodied Actions
Published:21 Dec 2022
There is relative consensus that spatial thinking is a challenging aspect of organic chemistry. The dominant perspective has been that spatial thinking involves innate spatial abilities, but this concept of endowment has been challenged by research that has shown that spatial abilities can, in fact, be improved. Concomitantly, there has been an increase in studies that demonstrate spatial thinking in chemistry, and other science disciplines, involves more than a learner's spatial abilities. This work has demonstrated that spatial thinking requires students to apprehend a variety of models, diagrams, and heuristics that externalize spatial information in instructional settings. In this chapter, we argue that “how to” demonstrations, physically performed by chemistry instructors through embodied actions, effectively support students to perceive spatial information implicit in chemistry diagrams. We present two case studies of embodied actions in vivo to illustrate how instructors use their hands and bodies to help learners perceive spatial information in chemistry diagrams and to scaffold simulations of spatial transformations of molecular structure. Our analysis of instructors performing embodied actions in different settings suggests that in the pursuit of developing interventions for improving spatial thinking, the instructors' body must be centered as an integral pedagogical resource.