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Is Condensed Better? Comparison of a Condensed Spatial Training Course to a Semester-long Version

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Spatial Visualization Within Engineering Design Graphics

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

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Paper Authors


Norma L. Veurink Michigan Technological University

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Norma Veurink is a Senior Lecturer in the Engineering Fundamentals Department at Michigan Technological University where she teaches introductory engineering courses and a spatial visualization course designed for engineering students with poorly developed spatial visualization skills. Ms. Veurink manages several summer programs that introduce middle and high school students to engineering. She is active in the Engineering Design Graphics Division of ASEE.

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Amy J. Hamlin Michigan Technological University

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AJ Hamlin is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Technological University, where she teaches first-year engineering courses. Her research interests include spatial visualization, and educational methods. She is an active member in the Engineering Design Graphics Division of ASEE and is currently serving as the Editor of the Engineering Design Graphics Journal.

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This research paper presents the study of the impact of offering a remedial spatial training course over a condensed time frame.

Many universities are implementing spatial visualization training courses to assist students with poorly developed spatial visualization skills based on research that has shown that students with initially weak spatial visualization skills that receive spatial training have higher retention rates and higher grades in STEM courses commonly taken during their first-year, such as Calculus I, than students with comparable visualization skills who do not take the spatial training. Through the National Science Foundation funded ENGAGE (Engaging Students in Engineering) program, over 41 post-secondary schools have implemented spatial visualization testing and training programs. ENGAGE recommends the use of the “Developing Spatial Thinking” workbook and software created by Dr. Sheryl Sorby in spatial training programs. The workbook and software contain 10 modules, and many of the schools that offer a spatial training targeted for students with poorly developed spatial skills, offer the training in once-weekly sessions that follow several or all of the modules in the workbook, while a smaller number of schools offer the training in a more condensed format through summer bridge programs or twice weekly sessions. No studies have been published to date that examine whether the effectiveness of the training is related to the time frame over which the training is conducted.

At _______ University, a 1-credit spatial training course has been offered for many years, however this course has always been offered over a complete 10-week term or 14- week semester. Typically, three or four 30-student sections of the course are offered each fall. The course is offered in an 80 minute session where students are introduced to the topic of the day in a 10 to 15 minute lecture, work through software module exercises, and then complete workbook pages that are assigned as homework. For most topics, students are able to complete the homework during the 80 minute class session. About half of the students taking the spatial training course are concurrently taking an introductory engineering course which includes graphics instruction. The graphics instruction in the engineering course is purposely placed at the end of the semester to allow students taking the spatial training course to improve their spatial visualization skills. However, because both the engineering and the spatial training courses span the entire semester, the graphics instruction occurs in the engineering course before the students have completed the spatial training course. This results in some graphics topics being taught in the engineering course before the topic is introduced in a more thorough manner in the spatial training course. Also, toward the end of the semester, some students in the spatial training course appear to be pre-occupied with their other courses and begin to work on homework for other courses during the spatial training class or leave the spatial training class immediately after the lecture portion instead of staying and completing the workbook pages assigned as homework.

In Fall 2014 two of four sections of the spatial training were offered twice a week for half the semester to determine if offering a condensed spatial training results in 1) equivalent or better improvement in spatial skills and 2) improved student engagement than the once-weekly full semester course offering. In this paper spatial skill development and retention will be compared using grades in the training course as well as a spatial test administered at the end of spring semester. Students were surveyed at the end of their spatial training course to determine if there are any differences in student perceptions and preferences of the course (difficulty of the material, enjoyment of the course, would they have preferred the other offering, etc.). If it is found that the condensed version of the spatial training is equivalent or better than the longer version, schools will have more options for offering spatial training to their students.

Veurink, N. L., & Hamlin, A. J. (2016, June), Is Condensed Better? Comparison of a Condensed Spatial Training Course to a Semester-long Version Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25496

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