Asee peer logo

Improving Student Spatial Skills: Using Life Experiences and Motivational Factors to Inform Instructional Interventions

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Classroom Practice III: Student-Centered Instruction

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Matthew Reyes University of Oklahoma

visit author page

Matthew received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas A&M University. After working for several years in the construction industry both in the field and in management, he joined the Construction Science faculty at the University of Oklahoma in 2012. Along with his research interests in safety among the Latino workforce in construction, he is interested in teaching students to improve their spatial skills and in using educational games to enhance instruction.

visit author page


Diana Bairaktarova Virginia Tech

visit author page

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.

visit author page


Anna Woodcock California State University San Marcos

visit author page

Anna Woodcock is a social psychologist and faculty member at California State University San Marcos. She is currently investigating the contextual factors that promote and reinforce social disparities such as the underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM. Specifically: individual differences in motivations to pursue STEM careers; the psychological processes underlying the underrepresentation of women and minorities in STEM; and effective interventions for diversifying STEM.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Spatial thinking refers to the ability to create and hold an object in the mind’s eye and manipulate that object via sectional cuts, three dimensional rotations, and other mental operations. Prior research suggests that the degree to which students differ in their development of spatial skills affects their performance on instructional tasks that require spatial visualization. This study builds on prior efforts to identify how individuals’ beliefs and experiences influence spatial skills. Building on previous studies in the literature and prior work by the authors, a revised instrument was developed and allows for the analysis of the interaction between life experiences, motivation, and spatial skills. Based on a factor analysis, these life experiences are grouped into factors that are then analyzed for correlation with spatial skills. Results indicate that there is a correlation between experience in designing and building things and high spatial skills. Results also indicate that those that believe that knowledge is fixed tend to have lower spatial skills. This effect is mediated by individuals’ self-efficacy beliefs.

Reyes, M., & Bairaktarova, D., & Woodcock, A. (2016, June), Improving Student Spatial Skills: Using Life Experiences and Motivational Factors to Inform Instructional Interventions Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25631

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015