OECD Education Working Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership selected studies drawing on the work of the OECD Directorate for Education. Authorship is usually collective, but principal writers are named. The papers are generally available only in their original language (English or French) with a short summary available in the other.

English, French

Harnessing Spatial Thinking to Support Stem Learning

Spatial intelligence concerns the locations of objects, their shapes, their relations, and the paths they take as they move. Recognition of spatial skills enriches the traditional educational focus on developing literacy and numerical skills to include a cognitive domain particularly relevant to achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This report reviews research showing that (a) spatial thinking and STEM learning are related, and (b) spatial thinking is malleable. It evaluates two strategies for exploiting these findings in education. Strategy 1 involves direct training of spatial skills. Strategy 2 involves spatialising the curriculum, using tools suited to spatial thinking including spatial language, maps, diagrams, graphs, analogical comparison, physical activity that instantiates scientific or mathematical principles, gesture and sketching. Existing data support including spatial thinking and tools in designing curricula, training teachers and developing assessments. At the same time research continues to evaluate the effectiveness of the efforts and explore mechanisms.


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