April 16, 2021
April 16, 2021
April 17, 2021
Diversity and Classroom methodologies
Decades of research has consistently shown that spatial skills are one of the strongest predictors of future success in STEM coursework and STEM careers independent of math and verbal ability. Additionally, visuospatial skills, especially mental rotation skills, of female students are well documented to lag behind those of their male counterparts. Fortunately, research also shows that visuospatial skills are malleable, and individuals may need different methods to practice and improve their skills. For example, in a series of studies, Sorby showed that gender differences in STEM education could be reduced by enhancing visuospatial skills through computerized training that involves different forms of practice in solving visuospatial problems. Our team at the University of Illinois has developed an online training platform, consisting of sketching exercises and multiple-choice questions, to enhance visualization skills. This training platform was applied to students in a first-year elective course. Sixty students completed the course in the fall 2020 semester. The primary elements of the course included virtual synchronous class exercises, writing reflections related to visualization skills, and the training platform. Students representing eleven engineering majors registered for the class. These students were guided to the course based on the results from the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test: Visualization of Rotations (PSVT:R) which is a standard instrument for measuring spatial visualization ability. An electronic version of this assessment was recommended to all students entering the College of Engineering in the fall of 2020. Approximately, 1250 students completed the assessment. Students who scored below a specified threshold were recommended to enroll in the training course. The goal of the class is to improve students’ visualization skills making them more likely to be successful in STEM majors. At this stage in the work, we have two preliminary data sets to analyze. We have the results from the students who enrolled in the training course. In addition to their performance on the initial assessment and their class activities, they also completed the same PSVT:R assessment at the end of the class. Preliminary analysis of the data indicates a class average improvement of 23% on the assessment. Additional demographic data for those students requires further consideration. Gender, college major, and other factors can be investigated with respect to their impact on visualization skill improvement. The other data set is the assessment results from the PSVT:R given to the large number of students entering the College of Engineering. The average score on the assessment is 22 out of 30 which is consistent with historical data from engineering students using this test of mental rotations. The team looks forward to completing a further analysis of that data set and comparing to historical data. Many demographic factors can be considered with the large number of freshman students who completed the assessment. This paper is proposed as a “Work in Progress” due to the early nature of the project. With only one year of substantial data collected, all results might be considered preliminary until additional data are collected and analyzed.
Woodard, B. S., & Li, T. W., & Xiao, Z., & Goldstein, M. H., & Philpott, M. L. (2021, April), Work in Progress: Spatial Visualization Assessment and Training in the Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Paper presented at 2021 Illinois-Indiana Regional Conference, Virtual. 10.18260/1-2--38284
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