Exploring and Enhancing Spatial Thinking: Links to Achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics?

David H. Uttal, David I. Miller, Nora S. Newcombe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

104 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although neglected in traditional education, spatial thinking plays a critical role in achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. We review this relationship and investigate the malleability of spatial thinking. Can spatial thinking be improved with training, life experience, or educational interventions? Can improving spatial thinking improve STEM achievement? Research indicates that the answer is "yes" to both questions. A recent quantitative synthesis of 206 spatial training studies found an average training improvement of 0.47 standard deviations. Training effects lasted for months in studies examining durability and transferred to tasks that differed at least moderately from training tasks. A few studies indicate that spatial training can improve STEM learning, although more research needs to be done on this issue. We argue that including spatial thinking in STEM curricula could substantially increase the number of Americans with the requisite cognitive skills to enter STEM careers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-373
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Volume22
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Keywords

  • STEM education
  • cognitive training
  • spatial thinking
  • transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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