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Impact Of Spatial Visualization Topic Order On Student Performance And Attitudes

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Graphics and Visualization

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.696.1 - 13.696.9



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Paper Authors


Amy Hamlin Michigan Technological University

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Amy Hamlin is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Technological University where she earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering. She teaches first year engineering courses and an introductory spatial visualization course.

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Norma Veurink Michigan Technological University

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Norma L. Veurink is a Senior Lecturer in the Engineering Fundamentals Department at Michigan Technological University. Veurink is an active member in the American Society for Engineering Education and the American Society of Civil Engineers. Her research interests include spatial visualization, engineering education and first-year programs. Veurink worked in the field of on-site wastewater treatment prior to teaching at Michigan Tech.

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Sheryl Sorby Michigan Technological University

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Sheryl A. Sorby is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and is the former Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the College of Engineering at Michigan Technological University. She is currently serving as a Program Director in the Division of Undergraduate Education at the National Science Foundation. Sorby is active in the American Society for Engineering Education and the American Society of Civil Engineers. She is a past chair of the Engineering Design Graphics Division of ASEE. She was a recipient of the Dow Outstanding New Faculty award and the Distinguished Teaching award, both from the North Midwest Section of ASEE. Her research interests include spatial visualization and computer aided design.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Impact of Spatial Visualization Topic Order on Student Performance and Attitudes Abstract

Spatial visualization skills are critical to many scientific and technical careers. At Michigan Tech, we identify first year engineering students who may not have fully developed their spatial skills and invite them to take an optional 1-credit course to help develop these skills. This class meets for 1.5 hours once a week for 14 weeks. The topics covered in this class include: isometric drawing, orthographic projections, flat patterns, 3-D rotations, object reflections and planes of symmetry, cutting planes, surfaces and solids of revolution, and combining solids. Topics are listed in the order that was thought to develop 3-D spatial skills and in the order they have been traditionally covered in this class.

In the past we have noticed that 1) some students have a difficult time jumping right into isometric sketching and 2) that by the end of the semester students seem bored, especially when coving the topics of surfaces and solids of revolution and combining solids. To determine if attitudes and learning at the beginning and end of the course could be improved, the order of topics covered was altered in one of the three sections of the spatial visualization course during the Fall 2007 semester. At the same time, we wanted to ensure that changing the order in which topics were covered did not negatively impact improvements in spatial skills that we have been able to achieve through this course. Therefore, students in all sections were pre- and post-tested to determine whether changing the order of topics had a negative impact on spatial skill development. Attitudes of students taking the course with the traditional order of topics were compared to attitudes of students taking the course with the modified order through weekly evaluation forms. The evaluation form asked students to rate things such as their perception of the difficulty of the topic, how much time they spent on the material outside of class, and their enjoyment of the material covered.

It was found that the new order of course material did not have an impact on the development of spatial skills or student perception of the difficulty of the material. However, students did show a slight improvement in their overall enjoyment of the material. This improvement was statistically significant for the module on combining solids which was moved to the beginning of the semester. The improvement in enjoyment was also significant for some of the more difficult modules, inclined and curved surfaces and rotations about a single axis.


The spatial skills of all first year engineering students at Michigan Technological University are evaluated by administering the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test: Rotations1 during Freshman Orientation. Students who have difficulty with this test, those scoring 18 or less out of a possible 30 points (60% or lower), are encouraged to enroll in an optional 1-credit course to help them further develop their spatial skills.

Hamlin, A., & Veurink, N., & Sorby, S. (2008, June), Impact Of Spatial Visualization Topic Order On Student Performance And Attitudes Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3685

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