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Spatial Skill Assessment As A Predictor Of Student Performance In A First Year Design Foundations Course

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Instructional Strategies in AE Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1078.1 - 15.1078.10



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Stan Guidera Bowling Green State University

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

Spatial skill assessment as a predictor of student performance in a first year design foundations course


This paper documents the results of an investigation of the relationship between spatial visualization abilities and academic performance for first year architecture, construction, and interior design students, all of which were enrolled in an introductory design course their first semester of post-secondary education. The study also looked at the influence of factors such as the student’s previous art, CAD and drafting coursework at the high school level. At the beginning of the semester the Purdue Visualization of Rotations (ROT) test was given to the students enrolled in an introductory design course which had development of design visualization and representation skills as a primary course outcome. This paper reports the results of the data analysis and subsequent conclusions and provides recommendations for using this instrument as an assessment tool in order to determine if supplemental activities are required for students in similar design foundations-type courses.


The ability to conceptualize three-dimensional space and form is fundamental to development of design skills. Research first recognized spatial skills as a separate aspect of general intelligence in the early 20th century 1. Spatial visualization is described as “the mental manipulation of spatial information to determine how a given spatial configuration would appear if portions of that configuration were to be rotated, folded, repositioned, or otherwise transformed." 2 and is considered central to the design process as it provides a bridge between design and design representation.3 The development or improvement of 3-D spatial visualization skills is often cited as one of the major goals of engineering design graphics education 3 but is particularly important in the field of architecture and engineering, 4 where expertise is associated with the development of three dimensional “knowledge acquisition processes” and specialized skills for making inferences about the 3- dimensional nature of the building from 2-dimensional geometry 5. The importance of spatial visualization skills was further emphasized by the perceptual psychologist Rudolf Arnheim’s position that "thinking, then, is mostly visual thinking." 6

Esparragoza 7 proposed that spatial visualization abilities are to a large extent analogous to any other human trait, stating that “there are some people who can run faster than others the same as there are some people who have the ability of processing visual information better than others” and that “engineers, designers and scientists should have visual abilities above average people to be creative and resourceful professional.” 7 Therefore, spatial ability has been found to be a predictor for academic performance for engineering as well as related disciplines.8

However, research has found that performance among students with lower levels of spatial skill can be remediated with additional supplemental activities such as multi-view sketching and modeling exercises.8, 9. Similarly, Esparragoza 7 proposed that “training to help the students to develop and enhance their visualization skills can be done by means of problems and exercises in the orthographic projection and axonometric drawings topics.” He cited the role of two multi- media tutorials, the Visual Reasoning Tutorial (VRT) and the Orthographic Projection Tutor

Guidera, S. (2010, June), Spatial Skill Assessment As A Predictor Of Student Performance In A First Year Design Foundations Course Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16415

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