Components of Spatial Thinking: Evidence from a Spatial Thinking Ability Test

Jongwon Lee, Robert Bednarz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


This article introduces the development and validation of the spatial thinking ability test (STAT). The STAT consists of sixteen multiple-choice questions of eight types. The STAT was validated by administering it to a sample of 532 junior high, high school, and university students. Factor analysis using principal components extraction was applied to identify underlying spatial thinking components and to evaluate the construct validity of the STAT. Spatial components identified through factor analysis only partly coincided with spatial concepts used to develop the questions that compose the STAT and with the components of spatial thinking hypothesized by other researchers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-26
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The initial motivation to revise and augment the original spatial skills test was to measure students’ mastery of the content and skills contained in the Association of American Geographers’ Teachers’ Guide to Modern Geography (TGMG) project materials. The primary aim of the TGMG, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is to improve the preparation and ability of geography teachers to incorporate spatial thinking skills into their classes. The TGMG project produced a variety of print and digital materials for preservice and in-service teacher preparation programs, for example, a multimedia CD with animated instructional units that deal with the analytical skills specified in the National Geography Standards, such as measuring direction, distance, slope, and density; analyzing map patterns and making rigorous map comparisons; formulating and testing hypotheses; identifying exceptions to patterns predicted by hypotheses; and buffering, overlaying, windowing, and other methods of spatial analysis. The spatial thinking ability test (STAT) was designed to assess individuals’ growth in spatial thinking skills and to help determine the effectiveness of the TGMG materials in promoting the spatial thinking skills of teachers. The revised and expanded spatial skills test also provided a data set that can be used to provide a preliminary assessment of the reliability and validity of the previously noted spatial thinking conceptualizations proposed by other researchers.


  • factor analysis
  • spatial thinking
  • spatial thinking ability test (STAT)


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