Document Type



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

Publication Details

Report produced by CREATE, Dublin Institute of Technology - (Contributions to Research in Engineering and Applied Education Education), 2016.


The overall aim of this project is to determine the role that spatial ability plays in academic success in STEM disciplines across all levels of the Irish education system. Research studies carried out across many countries, including Ireland, have shown that spatial skills and reasoning play a central role in determining a student’s perceptions of STEM subjects and disciplines, and significantly impacts on their ability to succeed in these areas. This research is being carried out to establish the levels of spatial ability across all levels of education in Ireland and to introduce education interventions and learning activities to increase students’ spatial skills. It is also being carried out to establish if there is a difference in scores between male and female students and to determine the relationship between subject selection and spatial skills. Spatial ability has long been considered a key indicator of intellectual ability as evidenced by the inclusion of spatial tasks in many intelligence tests. Spatial ability was described by Thurstone (1938) as being a critical component of intellectual ability. Thurstone (1950) cites seven factors related to human intelligence, three of which referred to visual orientation in space:

• The ability to recognise the identity of an object when it is seen from different angles;

• The ability to imagine the movement or internal displacement among parts of a configuration;

• The ability to think about those spatial relations in which the body orientation of the observer is an essential part of the problem.

Understanding students’ spatial ability and where necessary improving students’ spatial skills is widely considered to be a key factor for preparing students’ for careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) related disciplines.