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Work in Progress: The Development of a Tactile Spatial Ability Instrument for Assessing Spatial Ability in Blind and Low-vision Populations

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Assessing Hard-to-Measure Constructs in Engineering Education: Assessment Design and Validation Studies

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Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Wade H. Goodridge Utah State University

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Wade Goodridge is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Utah State University. He holds dual B.S. degrees in Industrial Technology Education and also in Civil and Environmental Engineering. His M.S. and Ph.D. are in Civil Engineering with a focus on fluid mechanics. Wade has over 20 years of teaching experience, primarily focused at the University level, but also including 3 years of teaching in high schools. Dr. Goodridge’s current research interests include spatial thinking/cognition, effective pedagogy/andragogy in engineering education, and professional development. His research revolves around developing and validating curricular methods and instruments to improve engineering education in the informal, traditional, distance, and professional environments. Some of his latest work involves teaching Blind and Low Vision youth engineering mechanics and utilizing spatial techniques to enhance their understanding of engineering content. Dr. Goodridge is an engineering councilor for the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) and has been active in consulting for international companies such as SIEMENS and for USAID projects.

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Natalie L. Shaheen Illinois State University

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Dr. Natalie Shaheen is an assistant professor of special education at Illinois State University. Dr. Shaheen’s research and teaching focus on equity and access for disabled students in technology-mediated K-12 learning environments.

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Anne Therese Hunt

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I received my masters' and doctoral degrees from Harvard University’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health, where I served on the faculty for twelve years before starting a research consulting company. There, I have been involved with research design and analysis on diverse projects at the Harvard School of Public Health, the Harvard Institute for International Development, McLean Hospital, the New England Center for Children, the University of Massachusetts, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, Utah State University, the MA Department of Public Health, and at Columbia University. I also serve on the editorial board for Statistical Associates Publishers and teach Biostatistics in several online Masters of Public Health programs.

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Daniel Kane Utah State University

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Daniel Kane is an undergraduate student at Utah State University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and is expected to graduate in December 2021. His research interests focus around the study of spatial ability with an emphasis on identifying patterns of spatial strategies and measuring spatial ability in blind and low vision populations.

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There is significant work indicating that spatial ability has correlations to student success in STEM programs. Work also shows that spatial ability correlates to professional success in respective STEM fields. Spatial ability has thus been a focus of research in engineering education for some time. Spatial interventions have been developed to improve student’s spatial ability that range from physical manipulatives to the implementation of entire courses. These interventions have had positive impact upon student success and retention.

Currently, researchers rely on a variety of different spatial ability instruments to quantify participants spatial ability. Researchers classify an individual’s spatial ability as the performance indicated by their results on such an instrument. It is recognized that this measured performance is constrained by the spatial construct targeted with that spatial instrument. As such, many instruments are available for the researchers use to assess the variety of constructs of spatial ability. Examples include the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test of Rotations (PSVTR), the Mental Cutting Test (MCT), and the Minnesota Paper Foam Board Test.

However, at this time, there are no readily accessible spatial ability instruments that can be used to assess spatial ability in a blind or low vision population (BLV). Such an instrument would not only create an instrument capable of quantifying the impacts of spatially focused interventions upon BLV populations but also gives us a quantitative method to assess the effectiveness of spatial curriculum for BLV students. Additionally, it provides a method of assessing spatial ability development from tactile perspective, a new avenue for lines of research that expand beyond the visual methods typically used.

This paper discusses the development of the Tactile Mental Cutting Test (TMCT), a non-visually accessible spatial ability instrument, developed and used with a BLV population. Data was acquired from individuals participating in National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Conventions across the United States as well as NFB sponsored summer engineering programs. The paper reports on a National Science Foundation funded effort to garner initial research findings on the application of the TMCT. It reports on initial findings of the instrument’s validity and reliability, as well as the development of the instrument over the first three years of this project.

Goodridge, W. H., & Shaheen, N. L., & Hunt, A. T., & Kane, D. (2021, July), Work in Progress: The Development of a Tactile Spatial Ability Instrument for Assessing Spatial Ability in Blind and Low-vision Populations Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--38203

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