Felicita Gali, Sudhakar Venukapalli


Understanding of astronomical phenomena requires spatial reasoning skills. The current study examines the influence of spatial ability on conceptual understanding of secondary school students in elementary astronomy. The sample consisted of 38 ninth-grade students from a high school in Hyderabad. To evaluate participants’ spatial ability, spatial reasoning test, Purdue Spatial Visualization Test: Visualization of Rotations and mental rotation tests were used. Mental Rotation, Spatial Perception, and Spatial Visualization are the types of spatial ability tested in this study. To understand learners conceptual understanding in astronomy, 30 probes on astronomical topics were administered. The research study was quantitative in nature. Correlational analysis showed that all three spatial sub-skills namely Spatial Orientation, Mental rotation and Spatial Visualization is associated with astronomy conceptual understanding. The correlation coefficient of overall spatial ability and conceptual understanding was 0.693 (p < 0.05). The result of an independent t-test suggested that there is no major impact of gender on spatial ability and conceptual understanding in astronomy. The researchers suggest that teachers should develop spatially enriched lessons that help students improve their spatial thinking skills and a deeper conceptual understanding of basic astronomical concepts.

Article visualizations:

Hit counter


spatial ability, conceptual understanding, astronomy, spatial orientation, and spatial visualization

Full Text:



Al-Balushi, S., & Al-Battashi, I. A. (2013). Ninth graders' spatial ability and working memory capacity (WMC) in relation to their science and mathematics achievement and their gender. Journal of Turkish Science Education, 10(1), 12-27.

Bayraktar, S. (2009). Pre-service primary teachers’ ideas about lunar phases. Journal of Turkish Science Education. 6: 12-23.

Black, A. A. (2005). Spatial ability and earth science conceptual understanding. Journal of Geoscience Education, 53(4), 402–414.

Bodner, G. & Guay, R. (1997). The Purdue Visualization of Rotations Test. The Chemical Educator, 2. 1-17.

Callison, P. L. & Wright, E. L. (1993). The effect of teaching strategies using models on pre-service elementary teachers’ conceptions about Earth–Sun–Moon relationships [Paper presentation]. Annual Meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Atlanta, GA.

Carroll, J. B. (1993). Human Cognitive Abilities. Cambridge University Press.

ChanLin, L-J. (2000). Attributes of animation for learning scientific knowledge. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 27(4), 228-238.

Cole, Cohen, Wilhelm, & Lindell (2018). Spatial thinking in astronomy education research. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 14, 010139.

Halpern, D. F., Benbow, C. P., Geary, D. C., Gur, R. C., Hyde, J. S., & Gernsbacher, M. A. (2007). The science of sex differences in science and mathematics. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 8(1), 1-51.

Heyer, I., Slater, S., & Slater, T. (2012). Understanding the correlations among undergraduates’ spatial reasoning skills and their ability to learn astronomy. Revista Latino-Americana de Educação em Astronomia, n.16, p. 45-61.

Hoffman, M., Gneezy, U. & List, J.(2011) Nurture affects gender differences in spatial abilities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online August 29, 2011:14786-14788. doi:10.1073/pnas.1015182108.

Keeley, P. & Sneider, C. (2011). Uncovering student ideas in astronomy, 45 new formative assessment probes. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.

Linn, M. C. (1985). Emergence and characterization of sex differences in spatial ability: a meta-analysis. Child Dev. 56, 1479–1498. doi:10.2307/1130467.

Linn, M., & Petersen, A. (1985). Emergence and characterization of sex differences in spatial ability: A meta-analysis. Child Development, 56, 1479-1498.

Maeda, Y., & Yoon, S. (2013). A meta-analysis on gender differences in mental rotation ability measured by the Purdue spatial visualization tests: Visualization of rotations (PSVT:R). Educational Psychology Review, 25, 69-94.

Mohapatra, J. K. (1991). The interaction of cultural rituals and the concepts of science in student learning: a case study on solar eclipse. International Journal of Science Education, 13(4), 431-437.

Padalkar, S. & Ramadas, J. (2008). Modeling the round earth through diagrams. Astronomy Education Review, 6 (2), 54-74.

Padalkar, S., & Ramadas, J. (2011, January 5-9). Using Diagrams as an effective pedagogic tool in elementary Astronomy. In S. Chunawala and M. Kharatmal (Eds.), Proceedings of epi STEME-4 conference, Mumbai, 159-164.

Peters, M., Laeng, B., Latham, K., Jackson, M., Zaiyouna, R., & Richardson, C. (1995). A redrawn Vandenberg and Kuse mental rotations test-different versions and factors that affect performance. Brain and cognition, 28(1), 39-58.

Plummer, J. D. (2014). Spatial thinking as the dimension of progress in an astronomy: Learning progression. Studies in Science Education, 50(1), 1-45.

Plummer, J. D., & L. Maynard, L. (2014). Building a learning progression for celestial motion: An exploration of students’ reasoning about the seasons. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51, 902.

Ramful, A., Lowrie, T., & Logan, T. (2016). Measurement of spatial ability: Construction and validation of the spatial reasoning instrument for middle school students. Journal of Psycho Educational Assessment, 35(7), 709-727.

Roberts, J. E., & Bell, M. A. (2002). The effects of age and sex on mental rotation performance, verbal performance, and brain electrical activity. Developmental Psychobiology, 40(4), 391-407.

Rudmann, D. S. (2002). Solving astronomy problems can be limited by intuited knowledge, spatial ability or both. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. New Orleans, L.A.

Samarapungavan, A., Vosniadou, S., & Brewer, W. F. (1996). Mental models of the Earth, Sun, and Moon: Indian children’s cosmologies. Cognitive Development, 11(4), 491–521.

Sneider, C. & Pulos, S. (1983). Children's cosmographies: Understanding the Earth's shape and gravity. Science Education, 67, 205-221.

Sneider, C., Bar, V., & Kavanagh, C. (2011). Learning about seasons: A guide for teachers and curriculum developers. Astronomy Education Review, 10, 010103-1.

Spinath, B., Spinath, F. M., Harlaar, N., & Plomin, R. (2006). Predicting school achievement from general cognitive ability, self-perceived ability, and intrinsic value. Intelligence, 34(4), 363–374.

Subramaniam, K. & Padalkar, S. (2009). Visualisation and reasoning in explaining the phases of the Moon. International Journal of Science Education, 31 (3), 395-417.

Turk, C. (2016). The Correlation between pre-service science teachers’ astronomy achievement, attitudes towards astronomy and spatial thinking skills. Journal of Education and Learning, 5( 2).

Venkateswaran T. V. (2010). Role play based approach for elementary astronomy education. Vigyan Prasar, New Delhi, India.

Voyer, D., Voyer, S., & Bryden, M. P. (1995). Magnitude of sex differences in spatial abilities: A meta-analysis and consideration of critical variables. Psychological Bulletin, 117(2), 250-270.

Wellington, J. J., Osborne, J., & Wellington, J. (2001). Language and literacy in science education. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Wellner, K. (1995). A correlational study of seven projective spatial structures with regard to the phases of the moon[ Doctoral dissertation]. University of Iowa.

Wilhelm, J. (2009). Gender differences in lunar-related scientific and mathematical understandings. International Journal of Science Education, 31(15), 2105-2122.

Wilhelm, J., Jackson, C., Sullivan, A., Wilhelm, R. (2013). Examining differences between preteen groups’ spatial-scientific understandings: A quasi-experimental study. Journal of Educational Research, 106(5), 337-351.

Wilhelm, J., Toland, M. D., & Cole, M. (2017). Evaluating middle school students’ spatial-scientific performance within earth/space astronomy in terms of gender and race/ethnicity. Journal of Education in Science, Environment and Health (JESEH), 3(1), 40-51.

Yoon, S. Y. (2011). Revised Purdue Spatial Visualization Test: Visualization of Rotations (Revised PSVT:R) [Psychometric Instrument].



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Felicita Gali, Sudhakar Venukapalli

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright © 2015-2023. European Journal of Education Studies (ISSN 2501 - 1111) is a registered trademark of Open Access Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

This journal is a serial publication uniquely identified by an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) serial number certificate issued by Romanian National Library (Biblioteca Nationala a Romaniei). All the research works are uniquely identified by a CrossRef DOI digital object identifier supplied by indexing and repository platforms. All authors who send their manuscripts to this journal and whose articles are published on this journal retain full copyright of their articles. All the research works published on this journal are meeting the Open Access Publishing requirements and can be freely accessed, shared, modified, distributed and used in educational, commercial and non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).