Spatial Ability for University Biology Education

  • Juan C. Castro-Alonso
  • David H. Uttal
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 785)


Studying and pursuing careers of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields demand spatial ability. Completing a university degree in biology is no exception. The aim of this study is to summarize key findings showing that there is a two-way relation between university biology education and spatial ability. The first aspect of this relation is the most investigated: spatial ability facilitates learning biology. However, the other aspect is also possible: learning biology may improve spatial ability. We present empirical evidence to support both possibilities. The focus is on university biology, and the spatial abilities of mental rotation and mental folding (spatial visualization). We present findings showing that these spatial abilities affect university biology learning and achievement from textual and visual materials. We also present correlational studies and experiments showing that university biology learning positively affects mental rotation and mental folding.


Biology STEM Spatial ability Mental rotation Mental folding and spatial visualization 



Funding from PIA–CONICYT Basal Funds for Centers of Excellence, Project FB0003 is gratefully acknowledged by the first author. Also, this research was supported by the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (National Science Foundation Grant SBE0541957) to the second author. We are thankful to Mariana Poblete and Monserratt Ibáñez for their assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Advanced Research in Education (CIAE)Universidad de ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.School of Education and Social PolicyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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