Skip to main content

Development of spatial thinking abilities in engineering 3D modeling course aimed at lower secondary students

Abstract

Spatial visualization ability is an important factor in a child’s cognitive development. Its development is affected by numerous factors such as general intelligence, problem-solving skills, gender, playing building games, experience with engineering drawing and 3D modelling, etc. The study aimed to explore how engineering 3D modelling with SketchUp computer programme affects the development of students’ spatial thinking and visualization in consideration of previous experience with 3D modelling and students’ grades in Technics and Technology. The study included 166 11–14-year-old students who were assigned to an experimental and a control group. A pre-and post-test were applied for initial and final testing. To test students’ spatial visualization abilities, an experimental tool with the following elements was assembled: Picture Rotation Test, Form Board Test, The Punched Holes Test, Differential Aptitude Test: Space Relations, The Surface Development Test, Mental Rotation Test, Purdue Spatial Visualization Test: Rotations. The experimental group was included in 30-h training in 3D modelling with SketchUp. The results have shown an excellent response of students in the experimental group to the training and confirmed the expectations concerning the improvement of spatial visualization abilities of these students irrespective of their previous experience and school grades in Technics and Technology. The study has shown that introducing spatial modelling with SketchUp in early technics and technology education enables more effective development and improvement of children’s spatial visualization ability skills.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Notes

  1. Technics and Technology is a compulsory school subject in Slovenian lower secondary schools. Beside this compulsory one, there are also some elective school subjects and voluntary extracurricular activities, which are dealing with technical drawing, developing spatial visualization ability as well.

References

  • Basham, K. L. (2007). The effects of 3-dimensional CADD modeling software on the development of spatial ability of ninth grade Technology Discovery students. Southern Mississippi: Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bishop, J. E. (1978). Developing students' spatial ability. Science Teacher, 45, 20–23.

    Google Scholar 

  • Buckley, J., O'Connor, A., Seery, N., Hyland, T., & Canty, D. (2019). Implicit theories of intelligence in STEM education: Perspectives through the lens of technology education students. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 29, 75–106.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carme, J., & Antoli, O. J. (2016). Spatial ability learning through educational robotics. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 26, 185–203.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carme, J., & Antoli, J. O. (2018). Enhancing spatial ability and mechanical reasoning through a STEM course. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 28, 957–983.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ekstrom, R. B., French, J. W., Harman, H. H., & Dermen, D. (1976). Kit of factor referenced cognitive tests. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fernández-Méndez, L. M., Contreras, M. J., & Elosúa, M. R. (2018). From what age is mental rotation training effective? Differences in preschool age but not in sex. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 753.

    Google Scholar 

  • Field, B. W. (1994). A course in spatial visualization. Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Engineering Design Graphics and Descriptive Geometry, pp. 257–261.

  • Fleron, J. F. (2019). Google sketchup: A powerful tool for teaching, learning and applying geometry. Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.livebinders.com/play/play_or_edit?id=101362.

  • Gardner, H. (2010). Razsežnost uma: teorija o več inteligencah. [eng. The dimension of the mind: the theory of multiple intelligences]. Ljubljana: Tangram.

  • Gerson, H. P., Sorby, S. A., Wysocky, A., & Baartmans, B. J. (2001). The developmentand assessment of multimedia software for improving 3-D spatial visualization skills. Comput Appl Eng Educ, 9(2), 105–113.

    Google Scholar 

  • Guay, R. B. (1979). Visualization of rotations: Purdue spatial visualization tests. West Lafayette: Purdue Research Fundation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gutiérrez, A. (1996). Visualization in 3-dimensional geometry: In search of a framework. PME Conference, 1, 1–3.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jaušovec, N., & Jaušovec, K. (2012). Sex differences in mental rotation and cortical activation patterns: Can training change them? Intelligence, 40(2), 151–162.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kahle, J. B. (1983). The disadvantaged majority: Science education for woman. Burlington: Carolina Biological Supply Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kell, H. J., Lubinski, D., Benbow, C. P., & Steiger, J. H. (2013). Creativity and technical innovation: Spatial ability’s unique role. Psychological Science, 24(9), 1831–1836.

    Google Scholar 

  • Koch, D. S. (2006). The effects of solid modeling and visualization on technical problem solving. Blacksburg: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lane, D., Lynch, R., & McGarr, O. (2019). Problematizing spatial literacy within the school curriculum. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 29, 685–700.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lin, C. H., & Chen, C. M. (2016). Developing spatial visualization and mental rotation with a digital puzzle game at primary school level. Computers and Human Behavior, 57, 23–30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Linn, M. C., & Petersen, A. C. (1985). Emergence and characterization of sex differences in spatial ability: a meta-analysis. Child Development, 56, 1479–1498.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mancini, L. (2011). Vizualizacije filozofskih konceptov (engl. Visualization of philosophical concepts). Ljubljana: Academy of Fine Arts and Design.

    Google Scholar 

  • Martin-Dorta, N., Luis Saorin, J., & Contero, M. (2008). Development of a fast remedial course to improve the spatial abilities of engineering students. Journal of Engineering Education, 97(4), 505–513.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marunic, G., & Glazar, V. (2013). Spatial ability through engineering graphics education. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 23, 703–715.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mataix, J., Leon, C., & Reinoso, J. F. (2017). Factors influencing spatial skills development of engineering students. International Journal Of Engineering Education, 33, 680–692.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mix, K. S., & Cheng, Y. L. (2012). The raletion between space and math: Developmental and educational implications. Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 42, 197–243.

    Google Scholar 

  • Newton, P., & Bristoll, H. (2019). Spatial ability, practice test 1. Psychometric Success. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://psychometrictests.com/faq/faq-spatial-ability-tests.

  • Pallrand, G. J., & Seeber, F. (1984). Spatial ability and achievement in introductory physics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 21(5), 507–516.

    Google Scholar 

  • Piaget, J. (1970). Science of education and the psychology of the child. New York: Orion Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pribyl, J. R., & Bodner, G. M. (1987). Spatial ability and its role in organic chemistry: A study of four organics courses. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 24(3), 229–240.

    Google Scholar 

  • Quaiser-Pohl, C., Geiser, C., & Lehmann, W. (2006). The relationship between computer-game preference, gender, and mental-rotation ability. Personality and Individual Differences, 40(3), 609–619.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rafi, A., Anuar, K., Samad, A., Hayati, M., & Mahadzir, M. (2005). Improving spatial ability using a web-based virtual environment. Automation in Construction, 14, 707–715.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rafi, A., & Samsudin, K. (2009). Practising mental rotation using interactive desktop mental rotation trainer. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(5), 889–900.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rodán, A., Contreras, M. J., Elosúa, M. R., & Gimeno, P. (2016). Experimental but not sex differences of a mental rotation training program on adolescents. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1050.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rodán, A., Gimeno, P., Elosúa, M. R., Montoro, P. R., & Contreras, M. J. (2019). Boys and girls gain in spatial, but not in mathematical ability after mental rotation training in primary education. Learning and Individual Differences, 70, 1–11.

    Google Scholar 

  • Samsudin, K., Rafi, A., & Hanif, A. S. (2011). Training in mental rotation and spatial visualization and its impact on ortographic drawing performance. Educational Technology & Society, 14(1), 179–186.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sawilowsky, S. (2009). New effect size rules of thumb. Journal of Modern Applied Statistical Methods, 8(2), 467–474.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sjölinder, M. (1998). Spatial cognition and environmental descriptions. Exploring Navigation; Towards a Framework for Design and Evaluation of Navigation in Electronic Spaces, pp. 47–58.

  • SketchUp 4 Hardware and software, Trimble Inc. https://my.sketchup.com/.

  • Sorby, S. A. (1999). Developing spatial visualization skills. Engineering Design Graphics Journal, 63(2), 21–32.

    Google Scholar 

  • Study, N. E. (2012). An overview of tests of cognitive spatial ability. Global Graphics, pp. 92–97.

  • Šafhalter, A. (2011). 3D modeliranje i prostorna inteligencija (engl. 3D modeling and spatial inteligence). Society and Technology, pp. 411–418.

  • Šafhalter, A. (2016). Razvijanje prostorske predstavljivosti z uvedbo 3D-modeliranja v osnovni šoli (engl. Developing spatial representation by introducing 3D modeling in elementary school). Maribor: University of Maribor.

    Google Scholar 

  • Šafhalter, A., Bakračevič Vukman, K., & Glodež, S. (2016). The effect of 3D-modeling training on students' spatial reasoning relative to gender and grade. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 54(3), 395–406.

    Google Scholar 

  • Šafhalter, A., Glodež, S., Aberšek, B., & Bakračevič Vukman, K. (2014). Developing spatial ability using 3D modeling in lower secondary school. Problems of Education in the 21st Century, 61, 113–120.

    Google Scholar 

  • Šorgo, A., Golob, N., Repnik, R., Repolusk, S., Pesek, I., Ploj Virtič, M., … Špur, N. (2018). Opinions about STEM content and classroom experiences as predictors of upper secondary school students' career aspirations to become researchers or teachers. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 55(10), 1448–1468.

  • Šorgo, A., & Špernjak, A. (2020). Biology content and classroom experience as predictors of career aspirations. Journal of Baltic Science Education, 19(2), 317–332.

    Google Scholar 

  • Toptaş, V., Celik, S., & Karaca, E. T. (2012). Improving 8th grades spatial thinking abilities through a 3D modeling program. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 11(2), 128–134.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vanderberg, S. G., & Kuse, A. R. (1978). Mental rotations, a group test of three-dimensional spatial visualization. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 47(2), 599–604.

    Google Scholar 

  • Verdine, B. N., Michnick Golinkoff, R., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Newcombe, N. S. (2017). Links between spatial and mathematical skills across the preschool years. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 82(1), 1–150.

    Google Scholar 

  • West, T. G. (1995). Forward into the past: A revival of old visual talents with computer visualization. ACM SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics, 29(4), 14–19.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zaretsky, E., & Bar, V. (2004). Intelligent virtual reality and its impact on spatial skills and academic achievements. Journal of Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics, 1, 107–113.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the National Research Agency for their support of this work through Grants No. P1-0403 (Mateja Ploj Virtič), P2-0057 (Andrej Šorgo) and P2-0063 (Srečko Glodež).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mateja Ploj Virtič.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary file1 (DOCX 854 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Šafhalter, A., Glodež, S., Šorgo, A. et al. Development of spatial thinking abilities in engineering 3D modeling course aimed at lower secondary students. Int J Technol Des Educ 32, 167–184 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10798-020-09597-8

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10798-020-09597-8

Keywords

  • Spatial thinking ability
  • Spatial visualization ability
  • 3D modelling
  • Previous modelling experience