Research Papers

Document Type

Conference Paper


Industry leaders rarely remark that the technical skills of engineering students are lacking; however, they frequently indicate that new engineers should be better prepared in communication skills, particularly written communication skills. In contrast, the visualization ability, or spatial skills, of engineering majors are typically excellent. Prior research has demonstrated that spatial ability is a significant predictor for graduating from STEM fields, particularly in engineering. This paper is part of a larger project that is exploring whether these two phenomena – poor written communication skills and well-developed spatial skills – are linked. In other words, is there a negative correlation between these two types of skills for engineering students? Data for this study was collected from first-year engineering students at a large university in the U.S. An online survey was administered that consisted of two validated spatial visualization tests, a verbal analogy task, and questions regarding students’ self-perceived communication ability. Student scores on spatial visualization tests and a verbal analogy task were compared between student groups and students’ perceived ability to communicate. Results identified statistically significant differences in test scores between domestic and international male students on all three tests. Interestingly, no gender-based differences were observed in spatial skills. Results from this study will contribute to future exploration of the link between spatial and technical communication skills. Results can also help inform the development of an intervention aimed at improving the written technical communication skills of our engineering students by helping them learn to write about spatial phenomena.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.