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The link between spatial visualisation skills and academic and professional achievement in STEM fields is well established. It is also widely documented that men outperform women on tests of spatial ability. This disparity puts women at a relative disadvantage for academic success in STEM disciplines. Our research explores the influence of secondary academic experience on spatial visualisation ability among first year students entering an engineering or science programme. Spatial ability was measured using two standard psychometric instruments for measurement of spatial visualization. Out of eight secondary courses considered, a single course in design and computer graphics emerged as a predictor of spatial ability. Students who took this course had significantly higher scores on both measures of spatial cognition than students who did not take the course. There was no significant difference in test scores of men and women who took the course. A significant gender gap was observed among students who did not take the course.
Farrell, S. et al. (2015). A profile of the spatial visualisation abilities of first year engineering and science students. The 6th Research in Engineering Education Symposium (REES 2015), Dublin, Ireland, July 13-15.