2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM


SORBY, Sheryl A., College of Engineering, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931, sheryl@mtu.edu

Three-dimensional spatial skills have been the topic of educational research over the past 100 years and have been found to be critical to success in many scientifc and technical professions. In fact, there are many applications within the geosciences where 3-D spatial skills are especially important. Unfortunately, of all the cognitive skills, 3-D spatial skills still show significant gender differences favoring males, at a time when we are trying to increase the number of women who pursue careers in science and technology. Gender differences are particularly predominant in mental rotation skills. At Michigan Tech we have been offering a bridging course since 1993 aimed at students with weak 3-D spatial skills. Recently, multimedia software and a workbook have been developed that are designed to help students improve their spatial reasoning skills. The Michigan Tech course has been shown to have a significant positive impact on developing 3-D spatial skills. This improvement has led to an increase in student success in follow-on courses as measured by grades received and an increase in student retention rates, particularly for women. This presentation outlines the topics in bridging course, the training techniques used in the course, the types of activities that have been shown to enhance 3-D spatial skills, and the results obtained at Michigan Tech over more than a decade of work in this area. Particular attention will be given to gender differences.