Spatial Skills and Computer Science

Research into spatial skills and computing science has flourished in recent years, with several recent studies exploring the relationship. Spatial skills have been associated with success in computing courses and specific domains of computing (like source code navigation and expression evaluation) and training spatial skills has been demonstrated to improve CS outcomes for early-stage students. Low spatial ability also appears to be related to demographic groups with historically lower participation and outcomes in CS programmes: those from lower socio-economic status backgrounds and women. Hence spatial skills research can potentially be of high value for our discipline.

To date these studies have involved only a handful of individual institutions. The goal of this project is to understand more about the role of spatial skills across a one-year period for entry-level CS students across multiple institutions. In particular, we would like to discover whether correlations between spatial ability and success in CS hold across institutions, whether spatial ability changes over a period of CS instruction and how spatial ability exhibits in different demographic groups.

Video overview

Overview of Activity

Participation in this project requires that you can:

  • Conduct three spatial skills tests (each lasting about half an hour) across the academic year with students in introductory computing
  • Collect naturally occurring student data, including final course grades, course choices and demographic information
  • Apply for ethical approval if your institution requires it (the University of Glasgow is working towards blanket approval, but and will support institutions with specific requirements)
  • Contribute to analysis and dissemination activities

The input from students required for this study is limited: testing their spatial skills and collecting grades and demographics. Thus, the work for each participant is low, but the potential contribution of the collective work is high.

There will be a drop-in information session on Mon 9th August at 15:00 BST, with the first project meeting will take place a week later. If you can't attend, contact the project lead (Jack Parkinson) for a discussion. Subsequent meetings will be at UKICER, then in December and May 2022.

Milestone Date and Time
Call for Participation Friday, July 23, 2021.
Drop-in information sessions

Monday, August 9, 2021, 1700 BST.
Zoom (Authenticated users only)

Tuesday, August 10, 2021, 1700 BST.
Zoom (Authenticated users only)

Wednesday, August 11, 2021, 1700 BST.
Zoom (Authenticated users only)

Thursday, August 12, 2021, 1700 BST.
Zoom (Authenticated users only)

Friday, August 13, 2021, 1700 BST.
Zoom (Authenticated users only)

Deadline for expression of interest

Wednesday, August 11, 2021, anywhere on Earth (UTC-12).

Friday, August 20, 2021, anywhere on Earth (UTC-12).

Discussion and decision on RIPPA participants

Thursday, August 12, 2021, anywhere on Earth (UTC-12).

Monday, August 23, 2021, anywhere on Earth (UTC-12).

Notification of participation in RIPPA

Friday, August 13, 2021, anywhere on Earth (UTC-12).

Monday, August 23, 2021, anywhere on Earth (UTC-12).

Start-up workshop (Conference)

Monday, August 16, 2021, TBC.

Thursday, September 2, 2021.

Interim workshop

December, 2021

Capstone workshop

May, 2022

Call for Participation in the Spatial Skills in Computer Science RIPPA (PDF)

Expression of interest

Use the form before to submit your expression of interest to join the RIPPA.


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