Square Dance as a Methodology for Teaching Spatial Thinking

Authors: Scott Freundschuh*, University of New Mexico
Topics: Behavioral Geography, Geography Education
Keywords: spatial thinking, reference frames, spatial abilities
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Southdown, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Research on spatial thinking finds that spatial abilities in small-size spaces that are based on an intrinsic reference frame (RF) are malleable, durable and generalizable. However, these studies tell us little about spatial abilities that rely on an extrinsic RF in larger size spaces. Finding a suitable testing methodology in a controlled size/space is extremely difficult. This pilot study explores using square dance to assess the spatial skills of participants in a larger size space using both intrinsic and extrinsic RFs.

In square dance, dancers must attend to the orientation of their bodies, the space surrounding their body, and the space of the square as they move dynamically in space. Spatial concepts and formations learned in square dance are of increasing complexity. Beginner lessons orient the dancer intrinsically, where calls are learned from a specific position and involve movements to left and right. At advanced levels orientation begins to shift from intrinsic to extrinsic, where position and direction are in relation to the center of the square. For this study 50 square dancers completed a suite of tests that assessed self-perception of spatial ability, mental rotation, orientation and perspective, memory, and spatial reasoning.

Results show that square dancers had significantly less error than a control group for mental rotation, had significantly higher SBSODS scores than a control group, and had significantly less angular error in spatial orientation estimates that a control group. Age, gender and level of square were also significant factors.

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