This paper is part of the Focused Collection on Astronomy Education Research.] Multiple studies show that spatial thinking skills contribute to students’ performance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. The study of astronomy is no different with the understanding of many astronomical phenomena requiring spatial thinking skills. This paper describes traditional and contemporary approaches to characterizing and measuring spatial thinking skills and suggests how they inform research in astronomy education. It summarizes previous literature in astronomy education research and categorizes the research approaches of astronomy education peer-reviewed journal articles and conference proceedings that explicitly consider the role of spatial thinking. Additionally, it recommends directions and curricular approaches for astronomy education research informed by current research in spatial thinking.

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Published in Physical Review Physics Education Research, v. 14, issue 1, 010139, p. 1-27.

Published by the American Physical Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the published article’s title, journal citation, and DOI.

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