Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Physics and Applied Physics



First Advisor

Ramon E Lopez


Physics examines topics that are highly spatial in nature. Students are required to visualize a system, manipulate that system, and then solve a given problem. Doing all of this simultaneously can lead to a cognitive overload, causing the student to be unable to correctly solve the problem. Some difficulties may be rooted in conceptual difficulties, whereas other difficulties may arise from issues with spatial intelligence and visual cognition. In some cases, students might have created an incorrect mental image of the problem to begin with, and it's this misconception, not the lack of content knowledge, that has caused the student to arrive at an incorrect answer. This work focuses on several discrete investigations that relate to student learning in physics and the relationship to spatial ability and other factors, especially scientific reasoning. Specifically, we examine factors that might impact high school students' performance physics, state tests, and the SAT. We also compare spatial ability in students taking physics from high school through the beginning of upper division at the university level. Finally, we apply a novel approach from general systems performance theory to model student achievement on the SAT.


Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Physics


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

Included in

Physics Commons