June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
26.1389.1 - 26.1389.11
Spatial Skills Development of Engineering Students: Identifying Instructional Tools to Incorporate into Existing CurriculaSpatial thinking refers to the ability to create and hold an object in the mind’s eye and manipulatethat object via sectional cuts, three dimensional rotations, and other mental operations. Spatialskills are of great importance for problem solving in everyday life and research has shown a directcorrelation between having good spatial skills and achieving success in engineering disciplines.With the demonstrated importance of these skills and evidence that they can be learned, it is criticalthat educators incorporate instructional tools that are designed to enhance these skills. Literaturesuggest that students differ in their development of spatial skills and this difference affects studentperformance on some spatial tasks. Additionally, lower performance on engineering tasksinvolving spatial skills are observed in under-represented groups including women.In this study we first identify life experiences that predict an individual’s level of spatial skills.Things such as hobbies, activities, and work experience are analyzed for predictive power alongwith motivational factors such as perceived instrumentality and self-efficacy beliefs. The secondobjective is to determine the correlation between spatial skills and academic and professionalachievement.We collected data from four groups at different levels of their studies and lives: first yearengineering students, first year non engineering major students, graduate engineering students, andpracticing engineers. The study was conducted at a large Midwest university in the Fall 2014semester. Our study consists of eighty participants: 20 engineering students, 20 non-engineeringmajor students, 20 graduate engineering students, and 20 practicing engineers from localcompanies. We hypothesized that based on the curriculum and work experiences, experts(professionals, and graduate students) would have higher spatial skills than the freshmanengineering students. We also hypothesized that the freshman engineering students will havehigher spatial skills comparing to their non-engineering major peers. To measure the cognitiveportion regarding students’ spatial reasoning skills, participants completed the Revised PurdueSpatial Visualization Tests: Visualization of Rotations (PSVT:R). To measure the affectiveportion, all participants completed a survey with some demographic items, motivation items, andquestions about childhood and life experiences.We are currently analyzing the data and plan on reporting the findings in the full paper. We trustour study will inform engineering education community in two ways: 1). Gaining a deeperinsight on the intrinsic relationships between spatial thinking and engineering. 2). Findings fromthis study can lead to clues on how to integrate elements of spatial thinking with engineeringconcepts and incorporating teaching spatial skills with courses in the existing pre-engineeringand engineering curriculum.
Bairaktarova, D., & Reyes, M., & Nassr, N., & Carlton, D. T. (2015, June), Spatial Skills Development of Engineering Students: Identifying Instructional Tools to Incorporate into Existing Curricula Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24726
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