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Scaling the Revised PSVT-R: Characteristics of the First-Year Engineering Students' Spatial Ability

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Assessment Instruments

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1273.1 - 22.1273.19

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Paper Authors


Yukiko Maeda Purdue University

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Yukiko Maeda is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Purdue University.
She received her Ph.D. in quantitative methods in education
from University of Minnesota. Her research interests include
survey and assessment design in educational research, and meta-analysis.

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So Yoon Yoon Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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So Yoon Yoon is a doctoral candidate in gifted education at Purdue University. She enjoys working with diverse students talented in STEM areas. Her current research interest is to scale an instrument to measure students’ spatial ability, specifically spatial visualization ability in 3-D mental rotation (the Revised PSVT:R) using Classical Test Theory (CTT) & Item Response Theory (IRT); to investigate associations between PreK-16 students’ spatial ability and their STEM performance; to conduct meta-analyses to examine gender differences in spatial ability and intervention effects in STEM education; and to identify PreK-16 students’ talents in STEM.

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Scaling the Revised PSVT-R: Characteristics of the First Year Engineering Students' Spatial AbilityEngineers often require the ability to visualize their ideas on paper or computer screens with theaid of technology. While engineering programs in most universities require students to excel atgateway subjects such as physics, mathematics, and technology, students also need significantinvolvement in spatial tasks for their successful learning and performance in engineering. Pastliterature in engineering education generally agreed that spatial ability plays a crucial role indetermining students’ achievement in engineering courses, especially graphic and designcourses. While various spatial tests are available, the Purdue Spatial Visualization Tests:Visualization of Rotation (PSVT:R) has been commonly used to predict students’ success in theengineering field for more than three decades. However, while abundant studies that utilize thePSVT:R existed, little attention has been given to its validity in measuring spatial ability. Morespecifically, no validation has been conducted with the first-year engineering (FYE)undergraduate students. In addition, the PSVT:R was recently revised under the permission ofthe author of the PSVT:R because of the figural errors identified in the items.Thus, the purposes of this study were twofold: (a) to characterize the item- and test-levelfunctions of the Revised PSVT:R for incoming first year engineering (FYE) students based onClassical Test Theory (CTT) and Item Response Theory (IRT); and (b) to investigate itsrelationship with other demographic and academic related variables.About 900 freshmen enrolled in the fall 2010 First Year Engineering (FYE) Program in a largeMidwestern, public university completed the Revised PSVT:R. Students’ academicperformance, such as SAT/ACT subject scores, and high school core GPA, were retrieved fromthe archives of the university along with students’ demographic backgrounds, such as gender,age, and race/ethnicity. First, descriptive statistics of the Revised PSVT:R were computed. .Cronbach’s coefficient alpha and other item statistics were obtained based on the CTT forreliability evidence. A exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were performed to evaluateconstruct validity of the Revised PSVT:R. One parameter logistic (1PL) IRT model was appliedto estimate item functions and participants’ ability scores on the Revised PSVT:R.Preliminary results supported strong reliability and validity evidence of the Revised PSVT:R.Cronbach’s alpha was 0.84. The unidimentionality of the factor on the data supported theconstruct validity evidence of the Revised PVST:R. The IRT analyses results indicated that thetest was relatively easy for the FYE students compared to a general population of undergraduatestudents. The Revised PSVT:R scores showed moderate correlations with academic performanceindicators.This study made the first attempt to systematically evaluate the psychometric functions of theRevised PSVT:R. The reported descriptive statistics of the test scores, for example, can be usedas a norm to evaluate FYE students’ spatial ability in different institutions. In addition, theinformation provided by the study will help researchers and practitioners in engineeringeducation to accurately understand students’ scores on the Revised PSVT:R to make predictionin success in engineering fields.

Maeda, Y., & Yoon, S. Y. (2011, June), Scaling the Revised PSVT-R: Characteristics of the First-Year Engineering Students' Spatial Ability Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC.

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