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The Effect of the Project Lead the Way Program on Students' Spatial Visualization Skills (Evaluation)

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

PCEE Evaluation Studies

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Jamie R. Gurganus University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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Jamie Gurganus works in the Mechanical Engineering Department at UMBC, focusing in the field of Engineering Education. She also serves as the Associate Director of Engineering Education Initiatives for the College of Engineering and IT at UMBC. Her research is focused on solving problems relating to educating engineers, teachers, and the community. She seeks to identify best practices and develop assessments methods that assist teachers with student engagement, helping them to be successful throughout the STEM pipeline. A few of these key areas include enhancing student’s spatial abilities (k-12 and higher education), integrating service learning into the classroom, implementing new instructional methodologies, and design optimization using additive manufacturing.

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Elyse Hill University of Guelph

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I am a PhD student focusing on Intelligent Systems at the University of Guelph under my advisor, Dr. Andrew Gadsden. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) where I received a BS in Mechanical Engineering. My undergraduate experience introduced me to education and educational research, which drew me to teaching undergraduates in design courses. Several of my research interests include: control systems, estimation theory, pedagogy, diversity in higher education, and concept inventories.

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Anne Marie Spence Baylor University

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Clinical Associate Professor
Mechanical Engineering

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The effect of the Project Lead the Way Program on Students Spatial Visualization Skills(Evaluation)

Research has shown that students with more developed spatial reasoning abilities tend to perform better in their engineering discipline. To investigate this, we assessed the effect of PLTW on students spatial visualization abilities.

In a four year study, students entering into the College of Engineering and IT (COEIT) at Univeristy of who were identified as pre Mechanical, Chemical or Computer Engineering were asked to take the Purdue Spatial Visualization Rotations Test- Visualization of Rotations (PSVT:R) exam prior to registering for classes. The assessment asked a few open ended questions, including whether they had gone through a PLTW program in their high school. More specifically, the survey was identifying if they had taken the Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) and/or Principles of Engineering (POE) classes. Doing a comparative analysis using descriptive and inferential statistics, it was found that students who had taken either of the aforementioned PLTW classes performed significantly higher on the PSVT:R exam than students who had not gone through PLTW (p<0.5).

Motivated by the results, a partnership was formed between University of and two high schools with a well-established PLTW program. Using the PSVT:R exam, each high school tested their students spatial visualization skills in their inaugural PLTW classes, POE (n=57) and IED(n=23). Additionally, non-PLTW affiliated students in concurrent math classes with PLTW students (N=80) were given the same spatial visualization assessment (n=103). To ensure thorough comparative analysis, students were asked to specify their current grade in high school and which math class they were currently taking.

Results from this study found revealed the following (statistically significant values were found p<.05 or p<.005 level):

-Females (N=16) and males (N=64) within PLTW programs performed equivalently based on their mean score. -Non PLTW males (N=48) scored significantly higher than non-PLTW females (N=43). -PLTW students (N=80) scored significantly higher than the non-PLTW students (N=103) in the same math classes. -Females, both in IED(n=7) and POE (n=9), scored significantly higher than non-PLTW females (N=43) in the same math classes. -Males in POE (N=48) scored significantly higher than their male counterparts in calculus (N=29).

Findings from this study suggest that students in PLTW programs have more developed spatial reasoning, better positioning them to be successful in higher education.

Gurganus, J. R., & Hill, E., & Spence, A. M. (2018, June), The Effect of the Project Lead the Way Program on Students' Spatial Visualization Skills (Evaluation) Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31089

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