Culturally Influenced Learning: Why do some Students have Difficulty Visualising in 3D?

DS 78: Proceedings of the 16th International conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE14), Design Education and Human Technology Relations, University of Twente, The Netherlands, 04-05.09.2014

Year: 2014
Editor: Erik Bohemia, Arthur Eger, Wouter Eggink, Ahmed Kovacevic, Brian Parkinson, Wessel Wits
Author: Milne, Mark; Morris, Richard; Katz, Tim; Covill, Derek; Elton, Eddy
Series: E&PDE
Institution: University of Brighton, United Kingdom
Section: Design Education and Design Cultures
Page(s): 255-262
ISBN: 978-1-904670-56-8


This study is a continuation of a developing interest in the observed problems of a group of engineering students undertaking a first year BEng course in Mechanical Engineering, and in particular a module in Computer Aided Engineering and Design. A previous study had noted that some students arrive on the engineering course with a range of abilities in drawing and 3D (spatial) visualisation, and that these difficulties can be a significant barrier for progress. Other studies have shown that spatial visualization is a significant predictor for success on engineering courses, and that the ability to visualize objects, forces, moments and effects on physical bodies is vital to the development of core engineering skills. A significant number of students on the course are from overseas, and during the initial study it appeared that these students were more prone to experience difficulties in spatial visualization, as measured using a standardized test. Methods were evaluated to help these students improve, and these proved successful. This paper presents the latest results from the continued study, which explores a hypothesis that earlier learning and exposure to drawing, both Art and engineering, influences core spatial visualization, and that cultures which focus on traditional mathematical and science skills, may create issues for some students with respect to spatial visualisation. The study also incorporated analysis of a group of Product Design students with a very different profile in terms of their exposure to Art and drawing and their cultural background, as a means of providing contrast to the initial study.

Keywords: Improving spatial visualisation, 3D visualisation, culturally influenced learning, education


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