Date of Award:

12-2018

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Engineering Education

Committee

Wade Goodridge

Committee

David Geller

Committee

Idalis Villanueva

Abstract

Spatial ability represents our ability to mentally arrange, rotate, and explore objects in multiple dimensions. This ability has been found to be important for engineers and engineering students. Past research has shown that many interventions can be created to boost an individual’s spatial ability. In fact, past research has indicated that engineering students significantly increase in spatial ability without an intervention while they are enrolled in certain engineering courses. Some researchers have claimed that the spatial ability boosts are permanent after an intervention. However, most researchers do not check the validity of that claim with continued assessment after more than a week past the end of an intervention. Additionally, if engineering education researchers are trying to measure the impact of their separate spatial ability intervention while the participating engineering students are actively enrolled in engineering courses, a confounding variable is introduced as the courses can impact students’ spatial ability. To resolve this, the work presented in this paper reflects research on engineering students’ spatial ability maintenance during the winter break between semesters. It was found that newer students exhibit spatial ability improvement during the break, while older students maintain their spatial ability at the same level. A deeper statistical analysis revealed that there are other factors that play a role in spatial ability changes over the break that are more significant than how far students had progressed in their studies. Those factors include with academic performance, the sex of the students, playing music during the break, and prior life experiences.

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