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A heuristic framework of spatial ability: A review and synthesis of spatial factor literature to support its translation into STEM education
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8292-5642
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM). Athlone Institute of Technology, Athlone, Ireland.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4199-4753
University of Limerick.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4819-0424
2018 (English)In: Educational psychology review, ISSN 1040-726X, E-ISSN 1573-336X, Vol. 30, no 3, p. 947-972Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

An abundance of empirical evidence exists identifying a significant correlation between spatial ability and educational performance particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Despite this evidence, a causal explanation has yet to be identified. Pertinent research illustrates that spatial ability can be developed and that doing so has positive educational effects. However, contention exists within the relevant literature concerning the explicit definition for spatial ability. There is therefore a need to define spatial ability relative to empirical evidence which in this circumstance relates to its factor structure. Substantial empirical evidence supports the existence of unique spatial factors not represented in modern frameworks. Further understanding such factors can support the development of educational interventions to increase their efficacy and related effects in STEM education. It may also lead to the identification of why spatial ability has such a significant impact on STEM educational achievement as examining more factors in practice can help in deducing which are most important. In light of this, a synthesis of the spatial factors offered within existing frameworks with those suggested within contemporary studies is presented to guide further investigation and the translation of spatial ability research to further enhance learning in STEM education.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2018. Vol. 30, no 3, p. 947-972
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-228853DOI: 10.1007/s10648-018-9432-zISI: 000440587000013Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85045075830OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-228853DiVA, id: diva2:1210923
Note

QC 20180604

Available from: 2018-05-30 Created: 2018-05-30 Last updated: 2018-08-16Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Investigating the role of spatial ability as a factor of human intelligence in technology education: Towards a causal theory of the relationship between spatial ability and STEM education
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Investigating the role of spatial ability as a factor of human intelligence in technology education: Towards a causal theory of the relationship between spatial ability and STEM education
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Education is a particularly complex discipline due to the numerous variables which impact on teaching and learning. Due to the large effect of human intelligence on the variance in student educational achievement, there is a substantial need to further contemporary understandings of its role in education. Multiple paradigms exist regarding the study of human intelligence. One in particular, the psychometric tradition, has offered many critical findings which have had a substantial impact on STEM education. One of the most significant offerings of this approach is the wealth of empirical evidence which demonstrates the importance of spatial ability in STEM education. However, while categorically identified as important, a causal relationship between spatial ability and STEM is yet to be confirmed

As there is insufficient evidence to support a causal investigation, this thesis aims to develop an empirically based causal theory to make this possible. Five studies were conducted to achieve this aim and are described in the appended papers. As the research explores spatial ability in technology education, Paper I examines the epistemological position of technology education within STEM education. Based on the evidence showing spatial ability is important in Science, Engineering and Mathematics, Paper II explores its relevance to Technology. Paper III offers an empirically based definition for spatial ability through a synthesis of contemporary research and illustrates empirically where it has been observed as important to STEM learning. Paper IV examines the perceived importance of spatial ability relative to intelligence in STEM education from the perspective of technology education. Finally, Paper V examines the psychometric relationship between spatial ability and fluid intelligence (Gf) based on a hypothesis generated throughout the preceding papers.

The main results of this thesis illustrate the predictive capacity of visualization (Vz), memory span (MS), and inductive reasoning (I) on fluid intelligence (Gf) which is posited to offer a causal explanation based on the creative, innovative, and applied nature of STEM. Additional findings include the observation that learners use problem solving strategies which align with their cognitive strengths, that external representations of problems can scaffold the use of spatial ability or alleviate the need for it, that the variability of knowledge types across STEM sub-disciplines may affect the nature of reasoning within disciplines, and that for technology education specifically, acquiring an explicit knowledge base is not perceived to denote intelligence while the capacity to reason abstractly to solve novel problems is. This epistemological fluidity and focus on reasoning highlights the unique way in which technology education can provide insight into intelligence in STEM education. The implications of these results are discussed with specific focus on their theoretical validity and potential application in applied educational contexts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2018
Series
TRITA-ITM-AVL ; 2018:9
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-228984 (URN)978-91-7729-744-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-08-29, Salongen, KTHB, Osquars backe 31, Stockholm, Sweden., Stockholm, 14:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-05-31 Created: 2018-05-30 Last updated: 2018-05-31Bibliographically approved

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