A large body of research indicates that spatial ability is critical to success in STEM fields, and can predict success in STEM learning. Further, previous research suggests a gap exists between boys’ and girls’ spatial abilities and skill development. Even when their academic grades are similar, spatial visualization skills can be less developed in middle school girls than in boys. In an effort to address this gap, a portable training system based in the Minecraft gaming platform has been developed for upper elementary and middle school students for increasing their spatial reasoning skills. In particular, the ongoing study is focusing on gender differences in spatial reasoning and studying how learning experiences can be designed to develop spatial skills using Minecraft as a platform. Findings from this study will be of interest to educators interested in engaging, technology-based educational experiences focused on spatial skill development and increasing student motivation for STEM. The guiding research questions for this study include: (1) Does a Minecraft-based intervention that targets specific spatial reasoning tasks improve middle grade learners' spatial ability? (2) Does spatial skills growth differ by gender? To study the influence of the of the Minecraft-based, spatial intelligence training curriculum designed on spatial skills, the research team developed spatial skills puzzles in Minecraft that specifically target the rotation and 2d to 3d transformation spatial skills. Forty upper elementary and middle school students who identified as largely beginner Minecraft players attended a summer camp in late August 2018 focused on Minecraft and spatial skill development. Students completed the spatial skills puzzles, in addition to completing Minecraft design challenges and free play. The impact of the targeted activities on students’ spatial skills was measured using pre- and posttests developed from established instruments for measuring spatial intelligence. Data analysis is still underway, but preliminary findings indicate significant positive change in students’ mean scores for rotation and 2d to 3d transformation skills following the completion of the spatial skills puzzles. Efforts to develop spatial skill puzzles to address additional skills are currently underway and will be piloted this academic year. Full findings will be included in the final poster. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation under Award DRL- 1720801.
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