GSE/RES Collaborative Research: Addressing the STEM Gender Gap: Does Spatial Training Enhance Middle-School Girls' STEM-Relevant Spatial Skills, Attitudes, Beliefs, and Interests?

Project: Research project

Project Details


Intellectual Merit: Michigan Technological University and Pennsylvania State University propose a collaborative project to test the hypothesis that an educational intervention (earlier shown to increase retention of woman engineering students) may also increase middle-school girls' STEM-relevant spatial skills. The project will further test the hypothesis that increases in cognitive spatial skill will also enhance girls' self-efficacy and valuing of spatial skills, and decrease the stereotyping of such skills as masculine. The intervention effects on STEM-related course choices and job interests will also be examined, while testing whether effects of the spatial-skill intervention, if observed, are (a) the direct result of enhanced spatial skills or (b) mediated by girls' changed self-efficacy, values, and stereotypes. Approximately 400 7th grade students in two diverse middle schools will be randomly assigned, by classrooms, to receive the spatial skills curriculum or to receive their regular instruction. Prior to and following the intervention, and again approximately a year later, all students will complete an assessment battery to measure their spatial skills and attitudes and beliefs about spatial skills (self-confidence/efficacy, values, stereotyping). At the end of 8th grade, all students will be assessed for their interests in and plans for spatially-demanding STEM courses and careers.

Broader Impacts: The project PIs and Co-PIs will provide training on the curriculum to middle-school teachers in the two cooperating school districts, monitor student success and the fidelity of implementation. Dissemination efforts will reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the team (collaborative PIs and Co-PIs represent the fields of engineering, developmental and cognitive science, and gender studies), the relevance of spatial thinking for a wide array of science and engineering organizations, and the simultaneous theoretical and educational goals of the study.

Effective start/end date2/1/111/31/17


  • National Science Foundation: $309,494.00


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