Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

FIE 2014, 44th Annual Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference, October 2014


Numerous research studies have highlighted the importance of well-developed 3-D spatial skills for success in STEM related programs. Poor spatial skills, particularly among first-year students, can place them at a distinct disadvantage when completing introductory courses in mathematics, CAD, descriptive geometry, and graphic communications - first-year requirements in many STEM related programs. This in turn can lead to poor grades and retention issues. Women are disproportionally among the group of students with weak or poorly developed 3-D spatial skills meaning that they are at a greater risk of leaving engineering when compared to their male counterparts. In this study, the spatial skills of first-year students in several engineering and technology programs were assessed through two standardized instruments widely used in spatial cognition research. The spatial skills of architecture and computer science students were also assessed for comparison purposes. This paper outlines the results obtained from a study at an Institution of Higher Learning and draws conclusions regarding the importance of spatial skills for success in introductory STEM courses. Grades at the end of the semester were obtained in several mathematics courses to determine if there is a correlation between spatial skill level and student performance in introductory math courses.