In-FUSE-ing STEAM learning with spatial reasoning: Distributed spatial sensemaking in school-based making activities

Kay E. Ramey, Reed Stevens, David H. Uttal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines the role of spatial reasoning in learning among 5th and 6th grade students participating in a set of in-school, technology-enhanced, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) making activities. We focus our analysis on a particular type of reasoning: spatial reasoning. Prior research has shown that spatial reasoning is relevant for problem-solving, participation, and achievement in STEAM disciplines. However, the literature on spatial reasoning lacks qualitative analyses of the processes through which spatial reasoning is learned, enacted, and leads to problemsolving insights, particularly in everyday learning contexts. Spatial reasoning is also underemphasized and undervalued in our schools. And although increasingly popular, hands-on, making activities have the potential to cultivate spatial skills, spatial reasoning has been largely ignored in the literature on learning through making. Informed by a distributed cognitive perspective and using a combination of qualitative categorical coding and interaction analysis, this study provides a qualitative analysis of the relation between spatial reasoning and learning through making. Our analyses show that during making activities, students engaged in frequent and diverse spatial reasoning with a variety of social and material resources and that the social and material contexts of different making activities facilitated different types of spatial reasoning. Our analyses also show how spatial reasoning developed over time and led to learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-493
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


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