Retain Engineering Students with SVS Training
Now that you've learned about the benefits of SVS assessment and training in your classroom, share these resources with faculty colleagues and department leadership to bring SVS assessment and training to other 1st- or 2nd-year engineering courses at your institution.
Arrange a viewing of the video below on improving SVS at your next department meeting.
Hear why University of Colorado Boulder considers spatial visualization assessment and training vital for promoting student equity, especially for at-risk women, underrepresented, and international students. Learn how to easily replicate a successful spatial visualization workshop used at the University of Colorado College of Engineering and Applied Science.
Guided Questions for Implementing SVS Training
Click through the guide below for answers to help you implement SVS training at your school.
1. What is the general process of assessing students’ SVS and providing training to those who need assistance?
Determine if your students will benefit from SVS training. Students who have weaker SVS are not necessarily academically poor students overall; they typically have less experience with activities that promote these skills. Freshman and first-year engineering students can benefit the most from SVS training. You can identify which students may most need SVS training by offering a widely-used, easy-to-deploy test early in your engineering program.
Communicate the benefits of testing and training to your students. Benefits for Students Talking Points can be used as an information piece to accompany an email to students and parents discussing SVS testing and training. Consider using this email draft template to contact your students. Some ENGAGE schools found it effective to have freshmen advisors meet with students who require the training.
Plan the timing for SVS testing for your students. Implement SVS testing in the summer so that students with weak SVS can enroll in a SVS course in the fall.
Test your students. The most widely used SVS test is called the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test: Rotations
(PSVT:R). It can be offered to students via paper or online.
Evaluate your students' test results. Analyze your test results and determine whether the number of students falling below a threshold warrant a separate instructor-led course.
Host a training course for your students who fall below the threshold score.
Finally, test your students again. Use their post-test scores and metrics such as GPA and retention rates to evaluate improvements in their SVS.
2. How do I test my students' SVS?
The Purdue Spatial Visualization Test: Rotations, or PSVT:R, has been widely used to test SVS for over 30 years.
It is a 30 question multiple choice timed test (20 minutes). A sample question is included to the right.
The test can be delivered to students as a paper and pencil test, as a quiz deployed through a school's Learning Management System (e.g. Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas), or through a survey tool (e.g. SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics).
Students can take the test during on-campus orientation and/or remotely—at their convenience—during a time frame that you specify (e.g. the summer before Fall semester begins).
Download instructions to access test materials.
3. Following the test, how do I determine which of my students need SVS training?
Review the PSVT:R spatial test scores for your incoming students. Determine a threshold score below which tested students would most benefit from training. Typically, schools use a test score somewhere between 60%-70% (out of 100%) as the threshold.
4. What do I need to offer a SVS training course to my students?
ENGAGE schools have used the curriculum "Developing Spatial Thinking" created by Dr. Sheryl Sorby with funding by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The course takes about 15 hours to complete and consists of 10 modules taught in 1.5-hour lab sessions each week. Module topics include:
The course materials consist of software, a student workbook, an instructor manual, snap cubes, instructor slides, and sample quizzes.
Instructors offer a 10-15 minute mini-lecture at the beginning of each lab session. Students work through each software module, often in teams of two, and complete sketching exercises in the workbook pages for the remainder of class time.
Some schools have offered SVS modules as part of existing courses, while others have offered a bridge course with a subset of modules. Schedule the SVS training so students have time to do the homework and absorb what they learn from each module. Don't try to cram it all into a one-or-two-week session. Materials work best in a supervised lab setting where students have time to practice and a person to whom they can ask questions about the material.
The following resources can be purchased from Higher Education Services:
- Hard-copy student workbook
- Snap cubes students can use to help with problem solving
- Multimedia software - institutional license with an instructor manual
- Multimedia software - individual license
- Online mini-lecture presentation videos
- Online getting started sketching videos
The following resources can be downloaded from Higher Education Services Spatial Course Learning Resources:
- Instructor slides for each module (or a PDF of all lecture slides) ** Updated April 2016 **
- Sample quizzes for modules
Development efforts are underway for an online SVS training course beginning in 2017.
5. Who can teach the SVS training course?
Institutions have trained faculty, graduate students, and even undergraduates to teach a SVS course. Instructors get access to presentation materials for each module and workbook answer keys. Instructors must have the ability to demonstrate each concept and guide students through the steps they must learn to solve spatial problems.
6. What is the best way to engage students and structure an SVS training course? Is there flexibility in format that works?
SVS training should be offered in one of the following formats:
- Require a course for students who fall below 60% on the PSVT:R. Offer the course as a graded for-credit course to increase the likelihood that students will attend. Involve academic advisers in supporting each student's efforts to enroll in the SVS training course.
- Automatically enroll students who fall below 60% into a voluntary, graded for-credit SVS course in their first semester. Read about the experiences of Virginia Tech and CU Boulder.
- Require supplemental instruction sessions for students with weak skills; give a grade and/or record attendance. This approach is similar to requiring tutoring sessions for students with weak math skills. Voluntary supplemental instruction sessions are not effective in improving student performance.
- Provide SVS training as part of a summer bridge program.
- Integrate SVS training into a required course. Use this approach only if the majority of your students have weak SVS. Do not use this approach if only a small percentage of students require this training. Consider offering required supplemental SVS instruction sessions or small group tutoring sessions.
7. What are the experiences of schools who have implemented SVS training?
Learn about the experiences of 5 ENGAGE schools (Clarkson University, Manhattan College, Virginia Tech, The University of Texas at Austin, and North Carolina State University) who have implemented SVS training: Read slides 38-53 of Implementing ENGAGE Strategies to Improve Retention: Focus on Spatial Visualization Skills.
8. How do I evaluate my students' SVS following the training course?
Capture metrics for students enrolling in and completing the SVS training course. Elicit feedback from students during/after the training to help improve your future training programs. Make sure to implement a post-training test following the course to measure improvements in SVS. Comparing students' pre- and post-training SVS will help you see how effective your training is. Finally, integrate spatial testing and training metrics with student retention and GPA metrics. Measure and monitor the retention and GPA of students with and without spatial training.