Icon for: Sheryl Sorby

SHERYL SORBY

University of Cincinnati
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Sheryl Sorby

    Sheryl Sorby

    Lead Presenter
    May 12, 2019 | 09:39 p.m.

    Welcome and thanks for visiting/viewing this video. I hope you enjoy it. This video outlines research that I have been conducting for more than two decades, primarily with university-aged students, but more recently with 7th graders. I am currently interested in ensuring that all children (including girls and those from low SES groups) have well-developed spatial skills for success in STEM fields. I have the following questions about how to go about doing this. If anyone has any ideas about this, please chime in.

    1) What is the best way to inspire/encourage teachers/school administrators/policy makers to consider implementing spatial skills in K-12 classrooms?

    2) How do we go about working with teachers who themselves may have poor spatial skills or poor efficacy for spatial activities?

    3) What are the best venues for getting the word out about the benefits of spatial skills intervention?

    4) Is there anything else about this topic that you think I should know?

    Thanks again for watching this video and I hope you have a productive time watching videos at this STEM for All showcase!

     
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    Lorna Quandt
  • Icon for: Elizabeth Phillips

    Elizabeth Phillips

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 15, 2019 | 01:00 p.m.

    Your work is very interesting and important. In the 1970s, my colleague Glenda Lappan and myself were interested in why there were not more women in mathematics. At the time, the conjecture was that women were not good at visualization and that good visualization skills were important for learning mathematics.  So, we said “If this claim is true, can you increase an individual visualization skills?” With NSF funding we developed a unit called “Spatial Visualization” which was one of five mathematics units in the Middle Grades Mathematics Project (MGMP) published by Dale Seymour Publisher.

    One of our graduate students, David Ben-Chaim did a research study for his PhD on this unit to determine existing differences in spatial visualization abilities and in attitudes toward mathematics of fifth through eighth grade students by sex and grade prior to an instructional intervention and after the intervention. Both males and females made significant gains in their visualization skills and after a four-week period, males and females performed higher on the spatial visualization retention test than on the posttest. https://elibrary.ru/item.asp?id=7374003.

    Another article from this study is: Visualizing rectangular solids made of small cubes: Analyzing and effecting students' performance. D. Ben-Haim, G. Lappan, R. T. Houang. Educational Studies in Mathematics, November 1985, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 389–409

    Later this unit became the Ruins of Montarek unit for the Connected Mathematics curriculum CMP1. By the time CMP2 and CMP3 came out, the NCLB and CCSSM were the current standards. Needless to say, visualization is not part of the CCSSM. Over the years we have had anecdotal evidence that many special need students did very well with this unit. For a short time in the 90s visualization tasks like the ones in our unit and yours occurred in state tests and other curriculum.

  • Icon for: Sheryl Sorby

    Sheryl Sorby

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 03:41 p.m.

    Thanks Elizabeth! I am very familiar with the work of the group at MSU. An early collaborator of mine (Dr. Beverly Gimmestad Baartmans) was the one who introduced it to me and some of our exercises are based on that work. Thanks for being early pioneers in this area. it is inspirational. Thanks also for the insights into getting a spatial unit into a standard mathematics curriculum. Despite all the evidence of the efficacy of this, it seems that it is still an uphill climb.

  • Icon for: Gillian Puttick

    Gillian Puttick

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 10:30 a.m.

    Understanding the relationship between 3-d objects, visual representations and math is a critical skill for all learners so it is commendable that you're bringing this project to middle schoolers.  The video shows how students transform a 3-D object into a 2-D representation, but I'm interested in how they might make connections from there to mathematics in particular. Could you say a little bit more about that?

  • Icon for: Sheryl Sorby

    Sheryl Sorby

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 01:09 p.m.

    So far we have been relying on middle school teachers to help us make connections between spatial skills and mathematics learning. Some teachers think the spatial curriculum fits well with what they are trying to teach. Others find this to be a burdensome "add on." When we look in the mathematics standards, we see all kinds of connections, but we're not sure that all teachers are teaching to the standards, so, to be honest, this is an area that we struggle with. We continue to work on this and to try different things.

  • Icon for: Deanna Privette

    Deanna Privette

    i3 STEM Grant Coordinator
    May 13, 2019 | 02:20 p.m.

    You've presented very interesting information, thanks for sharing!  Similar to your research, we are interested in trying to maintain interest in STEM, particularly femaies (at the middle school level).  Have you found a correlation between helping females with visualizing three dimensions and maintaining or increasing their interest in STEM and STEM-related careers?

  • Icon for: Sheryl Sorby

    Sheryl Sorby

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 05:30 p.m.

    Thanks! we are still analyzing data! We have found correlational links between low spatial and high math anxiety, so we're hoping that by improving spatial, we can decrease math anxiety and then (hopefully) interest in STEM will increase or at least not decrease. Stay tuned.....

  • May 13, 2019 | 03:19 p.m.

    Such an important topic.  I teach a structural biology course at the undergraduate level and I have found that students who have a hard time with the material are often those with less developed spacial understanding. Any insights into course activities that appear to have the biggest impact on improving spacial reasoning skills

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    Sheryl Sorby

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 05:35 p.m.

    The things we have found to be helpful are sketching hand-held objects from various viewpoints. There seems to be a strong link between a person's hands and their ability to visualize, so hand-held models seem to be important. In one study conducted by Stieff et al they found that in chemistry if students just viewed models of chemicals, it didn't really help them visualize what was going. However, when students were able to hold, manipulate, and turn the models in space, they were able to improve their visualization/understanding. So, I would say provide a lot of hand-held models and also somehow get them to manipulate the with their hands.

  • May 14, 2019 | 12:00 p.m.

    Great advice - I do a lot of that already so that's validating.

     

  • Icon for: Matt Fisher

    Matt Fisher

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 01:57 p.m.

    As an earlier comment alluded to, understanding the relationship between 3D objects and visual representations is very important in lots of STEM areas. From the video, it sounds like you have developed a rich progression of activities to help students develop these skills. As a chemist, I would be very interested in learning more about how you have structured that progression.

  • Icon for: Sheryl Sorby

    Sheryl Sorby

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 09:10 p.m.

    The curriculum we use includes a number of visualization exercises, including surfaces and solids of revolution, combining solids, isometric sketching, orthographic projection, folding patterns, rotation of objects, reflections and symmetry, and cross-sections of solids. Through this progression of exercises, students gradually develop the ability to move between 2D and 3D representations of objects. I have formed a small business to sell the curriculum (higheredservices.org) for this who want to use what we have developed, but, of course, people are able to develop their own activities as they see fit. One of the keys is to actively involve the students. We find the best medium for this is through sketching hand-held objects, but there may be other types of activities that work for some.

  • Icon for: Terri Norton

    Terri Norton

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 14, 2019 | 04:56 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing your work! As an engineering educator, I would be interested in learning more about the correlation between spatial skills and STEM interest and/or success.

  • Icon for: Sheryl Sorby

    Sheryl Sorby

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 09:15 p.m.

    The best article for this is probably Wai, Lubinski, and Benbow (2009). In this study, they analyzed data gathered in the 60s with high school students and looked at where they were 30 years later. In this analysis, spatial skills were a better predictor of STEM degree attainment than were math skills. The spatial skills of engineering and physical science majors were particularly high compared to students who chose other majors. 

     
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    J. Owen Limbach
  • Icon for: Peg Cagle

    Peg Cagle

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 03:34 a.m.

    As a high school geometry teacher and registered architect, this project speaks directly to a great passion of mine. It is interesting that you cite Wai, Lubinski and Benbow's longitudinal study about the impact of spatial skills. What I have found troubling since switching careers and entering the field of education is what I perceive to be the diminishing of spatial skills, in both boys and girls, generationally. Vast changes to early childhood experiences in and out of the classroom, the design of toys, the rise of screen time, and the demise of such classes as wood shop and sewing, leave many students with few robust 3-D experiences, contributing to weaker spatial visualization skills. You reference your own research now spans 20 years, and I am curious to hear about your own perception of if/how this issue has evolved during that time.

     
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    J. Owen Limbach
  • Icon for: Sheryl Sorby

    Sheryl Sorby

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 03:15 p.m.

    We have not seen a real decrease over the years, but we think it is due to the rising use of 3-D computer games that has somewhat offset the lessening of hands-on activities. We do a lot of hand sketching in our spatial skills course and we think that this is really where the skill development takes place. One problem I have is that many educators and funders want something sexier--they want an app for that. I guess we keep fighting the good fight.

  • Icon for: J. Owen Limbach

    J. Owen Limbach

    Researcher
    May 17, 2019 | 12:33 p.m.

    Hi Sheryl,

    Thank you for your work in this field! What an amazingly direct way to confront this particular disparity in educational background. The success rates for women sound amazing; and we really need them, and everyone, in STEM fields!!

    In response to your questions about working with teachers and getting administrators on board; in my research with the Making Sense of SCIENCE team (from WestEd), I've seen a lot of teacher training succeed well when the teachers themselves get to personally experience the learning they will be bringing to their students. For teachers who are uncomfortable with science (or in your case, 3D modeling/imagining), being presented with adult-level learning challenges using the same curriculum or teaching methods they will later use simultaneously gets them excited about learning/teaching others while teaching them the skills directly. (A video on one current project I've been involved with is featured here: https://stemforall2019.videohall.com/presentati... "Next Generation Science for Next Generation Kids." It shows some of the active PD and how it interfaces with classroom teaching.)

    One thing you don't see in the video I mention above is the work MSS did with administrators during this project. Some administrators (school principals and district administrators) were able to actually participate in the PD sessions, which infected them with the same passion to bring this type of learning into their schools. Another technique which we're analyzing now was to train and support groups of "science leaders" from schools and surrounding communities, who worked together to overcome obstacles to science teaching in the classroom. Some of this work involved communicating with administrators to grow support for these classroom practices.

    Thanks again for your work!

     

  • Icon for: Sheryl Sorby

    Sheryl Sorby

    Lead Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 01:47 p.m.

    Owen--Thanks for your kind words and your insights. We have done PD before with teachers where we help them learn/experience the curriculum they will be teaching. Many are enthusiastic, but some are not. I suspect the ones who are not enthusiastic have weak spatial skills themselves and so they are reluctant to teach something they are not comfortable with. I think for us, too, a problem is the compressed nature of our PD sessions. I think they would be better if they were for an extended period of time, but don't quite know how to manage that logistically. Still working on things. I may be trying a hybrid model in the future to see if a combination of in-person/online will work better for the PD piece of this. I hadn't thought about including administrators in the PD. That's a good idea. I will have to try to figure out how to do that for future projects. Thanks again.

  • Icon for: Donna Stallings

    Donna Stallings

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 20, 2019 | 11:02 a.m.

    Dr. Sorby, 

    Which text did you use for the middle school students? I manage a summer engineering camp and have been looking for a text for the one week mini- camp. I would like a paperback book that they can continue at home after the camp is over. Thanks for the video. 

  • Icon for: Sheryl Sorby

    Sheryl Sorby

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 11:44 a.m.

    We used my curriculum that is available at higheredservices.org. I know the curriculum has been used in other summer camps with great success. If you are planning to send the workbook home with the students, I would suggest also purchasing snap cubes for each (You can by them for individuals at my company or by bulk (cheaper) through Amazon or someplace like that. I would try to get through modules 3 and 4 (1 and 2 can be done after, if you want) during the camp as they will be more difficult for the students. Module 7 would also be good, if you have the time. Those are the most difficult modules for these students and this is where they will have the most questions.

  • Icon for: Donna Stallings

    Donna Stallings

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 20, 2019 | 12:01 p.m.

    Dr. Sorby, 

    Thank you. I found the texts and the online course for STEM students. I hope to practice myself first and then look at adopting one of the texts this summer as a trial.  Thanks for the video and the work toward supporting student development. Take care.

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