Examining the spatial ability phenomenon from the student's perspective

James L Mohler, Purdue University


Using the phenomenological approach, this investigation examined the lived experience of technically-oriented students over the course of a single semester, attempting to answer the question, "What was it like for a student to experience the spatial ability phenomenon?" Participants in the study included 12 interviewees and 8 focus group participants from a freshman engineering graphics course at a Midwestern university. Based upon the analysis of data from interviews, observations, applied tasks, and focus groups, five invariant themes were elicited. These included common background and experiences of participants, characteristics or tendencies of those who were high and low spatial ability, common errors made in spatial sketching tasks, approaches and processes relative to spatial problem solving activities, and feelings that were expressed or observed in the participants relative to spatial tasks. Outcomes of the study were the confirmation of effective instructional methods used in the course, the acknowledgement of the importance of object decomposition skills in spatial problem solving, and a systematic process for the generation of isometric pictorials from multiview drawings. This contribution includes a listing of teaching implications and recommendations, as well as suggestions for future qualitative studies on spatial ability.




Newby, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Industrial arts education|Educational psychology|Cognitive psychology|Educational technology

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