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Spatial Skills & Introductory Computing


Strong spatial skills are a predictor of success in many engineering disciplines. yet studies have shown that women and those from low social-economic status (SES) backgrounds have lower spatial abilities, and are under-represented in many engineering disciplines. It is of interest, therefore, to further explore the potential benefits in developing students' spatial skills to better prepare them for computing careers in the future.

Project Description

We conducted a study to determine whether or not students' spatial skills are a predictor of success in computer science, and then aimed to improve spatial skills and see if there was a corresponding increase in programming skills. The study was done in conjuction with the Girl Code programming workshop founded by Steve Cooper, targeting underrepresented groups in computing including women, African Americans, Latinas/Latinos, and Native Americans.

The study consisted of two groups, a control and a treatment. The control group was given a review of the previous day's concepts, while the treatment group underwent 45 minutes of spatial skills training per day. Each workshop was 2 weeks in length, with 19 students per workshop.


Our 2015 ICER paper. Quoting from the abstract, we saw that "a correlation exists between receiving training in spatial skills and improved student performance in introductory computing. While the sample size in the study is small, this improvement appears to occur for students of different races/ethnicities and across different socio-economic statuses."