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A Qualitative Investigation of Students’ Problem Solving Strategies in a Spatial Visualization Course

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Integrating Computing into the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Adetoun Yeaman Virginia Tech

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Adetoun Yeaman is a PhD candidate in Engineering Education at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). She received her MS degree in 2013 in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering and her BS degree in Biomedical Engineering in 2011, both from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is currently a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Her research interests include empathy, design education, spatial visualization and multimedia learning.

Address: Virginia Tech Engineering Education (MC 0218) 345 Goodwin Hall, 635 Prices Fork Rd, Blacksburg, VA 24061.

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Diana Bairaktarova Virginia Tech

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Dr. Diana Bairaktarova is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Through real-world engineering applications, Dr. Bairaktarova’s experiential learning research spans from engineering to psychology to learning sciences, as she uncovers how individual performance is influenced by aptitudes, spatial skills, personal interests and direct manipulation of mechanical objects.

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Tamara Knott Virginia Tech

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Tamara Knott is Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She primarily teaches Engineering Foundations classes to first year engineering students. Her interests include assessment and pedagogy. Within ASEE, she is a member of the First-year Programs Division, the Women in Engineering Division, the Educational Research and Methods Division, and the Design in Engineering Education Division. She is also a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and is the Faculty Adviser for SWE at VT.

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This Work in Progress aims at understanding strategies engineering students use in solving spatially-related problems. The participants in our study are first year engineering (FYE) students in an Introduction to Spatial Visualization course at a Southeastern university. This course is recommended for FYE students who score below the threshold required of incoming students on the Purdue Rotation Visualization Test on entry into the engineering program to help them improve their spatial visualization skills. Over 200 students enrolled in the course at the time of the study.

Spatial abilities are important in many scientific fields including engineering. People can develop their spatial abilities through practice and training. This possibility highlights the usefulness of strategies that can be used for solving spatial tasks. There are several spatial ability measures including paper cutting tests, mental rotation tests, cross section tests and mental cutting tests. The current study examines strategies that students used while performing spatial tasks that require the use of mental cutting techniques.

In this qualitative study, we are interested in students’ descriptions of the use of strategies on the mental cutting and rotation tests. Data will be collected via interviews with participants within the course. The analysis of interview data will be guided by a-priori codes, from our coding rubric developed in a previous study. The findings from this study can provide further understanding on the kinds of strategies students use in tackling spatial tasks. It could also provide insight on training students in remedial spatial visualization courses based on student perspectives.

Yeaman, A., & Bairaktarova, D., & Knott, T. (2019, June), A Qualitative Investigation of Students’ Problem Solving Strategies in a Spatial Visualization Course Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--31985

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