A heuristic framework of spatial ability: a review and synthesis of spatial factor literature to support its translation into STEM education.
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An abundance of empirical evidence exists identifying a significant correlation between spatial ability and educational performance particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Despite this evidence, a causal explanation has yet to be identified. Pertinent research illustrates that spatial ability can be developed and that doing so has positive educational effects. However, contention exists within the relevant literature concerning the explicit definition for spatial ability. There is therefore a need to define spatial ability relative to empirical evidence which in this circumstance relates to its factor structure. Substantial empirical evidence supports the existence of unique spatial factors not represented in modern frameworks. Further understanding such factors can support the development of educational interventions to increase their efficacy and related effects in STEM education. It may also lead to the identification of why spatial ability has such a significant impact on STEM educational achievement as examining more factors in practice can help in deducing which are most important. In light of this, a synthesis of the spatial factors offered within existing frameworks with those suggested within contemporary studies is presented to guide further investigation and the translation of spatial ability research to further enhance learning in STEM education.
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