Is Spatial Ability a Predictor of Future Success in Technology, Math, and Science?
A recent study published in the journal Psychological Science has opened the door, once again, for educators to contemplate the significance of spatial ability as a “critical diagnostic [tool] for predicting achievement in technology, engineering, math, and science.” “According to a recent Times article, evidence has been mounting over several decades that spatial ability gives us something that we don’t capture with traditional measures used in educational selection [standardized testing].” Based on this hypothesis, I have several key questions:
How might this information inform what teachers do in their classroom?
If spatial ability proves to be a viable way to predict a child’s potential success in a technical field of study then what next? Is it the school’s responsibility to then create a separate curriculum track for those children? How do we meet the needs of those students?
How should we use this information to inform our teaching for all students (question of differentiation)?
How do we use this information in relationship to the other abilities?
I believe it is important that any new data concerning spatial ability (reasoning) should not be taken in isolation from other abilities because children are very different along the spectrum of their development; therefore, what if your spatial ability is not has high as your logical reasoning or memory retrieval? What then? What does it really tell us at age 5?
Ultimately, I believe the best predictor of a child’s future success in any field is time. The test of spatial ability (in fact, any other ability) taken in isolation from one another can never truly predict the academic successes of students. I think parents and especially teachers must also look at the whole child to help determine future academic success (this includes their social emotional ability). It is too easy to say that one child is destined for greatness in science and math versus another based on a raw score. What if the child is a terrible test taker or has a bad day the morning of the spatial test? Please do not misunderstand me. I believe knowing a child’s spatial ability is important but not in isolation. The measure of true academic and life success should never be measured in the space of one test or by testing one ability. tlb