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Work in Progress: Review of Working Memory, Spatial Ability, and Spatial Anxiety in Engineering Problem-Solving

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Student Division Technical Session 7

Tagged Division

Student

Page Count

8

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/38195

Download Count

220

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Paper Authors

biography

Catherine Hendricks Belk Clemson University

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Catherine Belk is a doctoral student in the Engineering and Science Education department at Clemson University. She received her B.A. degree in Religion and my B.S. degree in Physics from High Point University in 2012. In 2014 she received her M.S. degree in Medical Physics from East Carolina University. Her primary research focuses on affective experiences involving spatial ability in engineering problem solving.

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biography

Marisa K. Orr Clemson University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5944-5846

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Marisa K. Orr is an Assistant Professor in Engineering and Science Education with a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Clemson University. Her research interests include student persistence and pathways in engineering, gender equity, diversity, and academic policy. Dr. Orr is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award for her research entitled, "Empowering Students to be Adaptive Decision-Makers."

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Abstract

One often overlooked barrier to engineering education and subsequent careers is spatial ability. Underdeveloped spatial abilities can hinder student success in prerequisites such as calculus and physics and further courses in the engineering curriculum [1]. In this paper, we review the literature on working memory, spatial abilities, spatial anxiety, and the relationships between them while focusing on the context of engineering problem-solving. Spatial ability is part of a hidden curriculum: it is relevant in engineering education but not explicitly and consistently acknowledged or explained by instructors. In the novice state, learners frequently call upon spatial thinking for problem-solving. With experience gained, learners become more familiar with discipline problem types and rely less on their spatial strategies. Experts’ accumulation of disciplinary knowledge allows the generalization of algorithms and rules, which enable problem solutions without any mental spatial manipulations. Many engineering educators are unaware of their expert blind spot. This literature review aims to synthesize spatial abilities, spatial anxiety, and how they interact through working memory to affect engineering problem-solving. One often overlooked barrier to engineering education and subsequent careers is spatial ability. Underdeveloped spatial abilities can hinder student success in prerequisites such as calculus and physics and further courses in the engineering curriculum [1]. In this paper, we review the literature on working memory, spatial abilities, spatial anxiety, and the relationships between them while focusing on the context of engineering problem-solving. Spatial ability is part of a hidden curriculum: it is relevant in engineering education but not explicitly and consistently acknowledged or explained by instructors. In the novice state, learners frequently call upon spatial thinking for problem-solving. With experience gained, learners become more familiar with discipline problem types and rely less on their spatial strategies. Experts’ accumulation of disciplinary knowledge allows the generalization of algorithms and rules, which enable problem solutions without any mental spatial manipulations. Many engineering educators are unaware of their expert blind spot. This literature review aims to synthesize spatial abilities, spatial anxiety, and how they interact through working memory to affect engineering problem-solving.

Belk, C. H., & Orr, M. K. (2021, July), Work in Progress: Review of Working Memory, Spatial Ability, and Spatial Anxiety in Engineering Problem-Solving Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/38195

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