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PERC 2010 Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: Can Spatial Skills Training Improve Achievement in Introductory Mechanics?
Abstract: Although frequently neglected in traditional K–16 instruction, 3-D spatial skills are critical to success in science and engineering fields, especially physics. We investigated whether formal spatial skills training can improve achievement in an undergraduate calculus-based mechanics course. Participants (28 female, 49 male) were randomly assigned to either a training group that completed six two-hour spatial training sessions, or a control group that did not. The training group consistently outperformed the control group on the course's exams\quizzes with an effect size of d = 0.38 for the examination composite score. However, the groups did not differ on a Force Concept Inventory (FCI) post-test. Nevertheless, common measures of spatial skills predicted students' normalized FCI gains independent of FCI pre-test scores. These results illustrate that developing spatial skills is an important goal of physics instruction, and that improving these skills can improve problem-solving (although not necessarily conceptual understanding) in introductory mechanics.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: David I. Miller
Harvey Mudd College
Claremont, CA 91711
Phone: 2064915537
and Co-Presenter(s)
Diane F. Halpern, Claremont McKenna College
Peter N. Saeta, Harvey Mudd College