Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Training in Mental Rotation and Spatial Visualization and Its Impact on Orthographic Drawing Performance

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Training in Mental Rotation and Spatial Visualization and Its Impact on Orthographic Drawing Performance

Article excerpt

Introduction

Spatial ability is one of the essential human abilities required for everyday chores and specialized tasks. Linn and Petersen (1985) conceptualized this ability as being multi-faceted based on three components namely spatial visualization, mental rotation and spatial perception. This ability was previously regarded as innate, but evidence from experimental studies suggests that significant improvement is possible through proper and specific training (Khairulanuar & Azniah, 2004; Olkun, 2003; Rafi, Khairulanuar & Che Soh, 2008; Turos & Ervin, 2000). Some studies have highlighted persistent and robust gender differences favoring boys especially in mental rotation (Linn & Petersen, 1985; Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974; Voyer, Voyer, & Bryden, 1995). Age was also found to mediate gender differences where spatial ability is relatively higher among girls at young age, but begins to favor boys as they approach adolescence. Environmental or experiential impacts resulting from diverging orientations or preferences in engaging spatial activities such as games and sports may also influence the development of this ability. Various training methods have been employed in training to improve spatial ability that mainly focused on the use of emerging technology and the effect of gender in training (Moyer, Bolyard, & Spikell, 2001; Rafi, Khairulanuar & Che Soh, 2008; Rafi & Khairulanuar, 2009; Turos & Ervin, 2000). Findings from these studies indicate that this ability is amendable to training, but training efficacy is mediated by training specificity, gender, practice duration and condition. Spatial ability has been established to be a strong predictor of success in engineering drawing courses (Kajiyama, 1996; Olkun, 2003; Rafi & Khairulanuar, 2007; Sorby & Baartmans, 2000; Strong & Smith, 2001). Students need to utilize two perceptual and cognitive processes when learning the subject matter which falls into two categories. First, students are required to represent a three-dimensional object onto a two-dimensional plane surface through multiple-view drawings. The second entails them to create three-dimensional perspectives by working from the two-dimensional representation of the object (Davies, 1973; Olkun, 2003). Both of these categories of learning constitute an integral part of the engineering graphics curriculum requiring a high level of spatial ability.

Shaw (2001) found that students had trouble in understanding orthographic projections than isometric projections. This concurs with the widely accepted assumption that mental synthesis of orthographic views into a three-dimensional form can be a difficulty skill to acquire (Wiebe, 1993). Likewise, Kajiyama (1996) found that freshman engineering students had committed numerous errors in interpreting multi-view drawings. Problems encountered by the freshmen demonstrating a poor ability to put a given view on its plane of projection accurately, to imagine spatial coordinates, and to calculate a geometrical relation of the point of intersection and vertex of an object. All these errors were attributed to low spatial ability in learning the subject matter. In addition, a study by Scales (2000) revealed that male students outperformed their female counterparts in the examinations and tests of technical graphics in colleges. Taken together these findings, female representations in the technical fields are at stake given the widely accepted notion that males are better in engineering and technology because the latter posses superior spatial ability than the former. The lack of research on the differential impacts of training based on training condition, gender effect, and training transfer provides the motivation for the researchers to conduct this study. Four research hypotheses to address the issues have been formulated as follows:

(i) Students' spatial ability (i.e., spatial visualization, SV; mental rotation accuracy, MRA; and mental rotation speed, MRS) would be amendable to training,

(ii) There would be differential training outcomes in spatial ability based on gender,

(iii) There would be differential training outcomes in spatial ability based on training condition,

(iv) There would be differential performances in engineering drawing task based on training condition. …

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