Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Alycia M Hund


The goal of the current study was to examine the effectiveness of a video comparison activity in teaching 6- and 7-year-old children that a diagonal brace provides stability in structures, which is an important engineering principle. Children were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Comparison, Single Model, or No Training. The children in the Comparison group saw two metal towers in a training video where the researcher pushed on the towers to demonstrate that one was stable (diagonal brace tower), and one was unstable (horizontal crosspiece tower). Children in the Single Model group saw a video of the one stable tower. Children in the Comparison and Single Model groups were asked to explain why the diagonally braced tower was strong. Children assigned to the No Training group did not see any training videos nor were they asked to explain them. All three groups then completed (a) a Relational Reasoning task, (b) a transfer task, and (c) a Mental Transformation task. Parents provided details about children’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) interest and spatial language to examine the relation of these constructs with performance on the three child tasks. I hypothesized that children in the Comparison group would produce more brace-based explanations than children in the Single Model group after watching the training videos. This hypothesis was not supported. On the transfer task, I hypothesized that children in the Comparison group would perform better than both the Single Model and No Training groups. This hypothesis was not supported. I hypothesized that children’s performance on all three tasks would be positively correlated with STEM interest and spatial language. This hypothesis was partially supported. Positive correlations were found between children’s spatial language use and diagonal explanation production on the picture selection portion of the transfer task, as well as between children’s spatial language and STEM interest. These findings provide support for the importance of spatial language in relation to spatial performance and STEM experiences, and they also highlight the need for research and testing of activities before switching from a physical to virtual format.


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