Playful education sows interest among primary school students: research

Playful education can improve spatial reasoning skills and shape positive attitudes towards STEM and design thinking, according to a study from the University of South Australia.

Research has stated that gamified education can lead to increased interest in STEM capabilities among elementary school students.

The study showed that regular use of Makers Empirea playful 3D computer-aided design program, can significantly improve spatial reasoning skills in up to 85% of children.

Working with 155 elementary school students (ages 11-13), the study evaluated the 3D design app Makers Empire for a 45-90 minute lesson each week for 10 weeks. Both boys and girls showed significant increases in three spatial reasoning skills: mental rotation, spatial orientation, and spatial visualization.

The program also strengthened girls’ beliefs and abilities to master these spatial reasoning skills, reducing the gender gap from 3.5% to 1.9%.

In Australia, women make up just 28% of the STEM workforce, with gender gaps particularly high in some of the fastest growing and highest paying jobs of the future.

Spatial reasoning is the ability to relate objects and understand how they interact and look from different angles and environments, according to research.

It’s a key skill for many professions, but especially important for jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

University of South Australia (UniSA) Senior Researcher and Associate Professor Simon Leonard said finding ways to connect and stimulate children’s interest in STEM is vital to Australia’s economy.

“The number of students studying STEM subjects in high school is still far too low, so it is essential that we continue to encourage young students to develop a keen interest and ability in these key areas, commented Leonard.

“We have known for some time now that spatial thinking is one of the important ingredients for success in STEM disciplines, and that spatial reasoning is malleable – it can be improved.”

“By involving children in the Makers Empire program, we not only showed improvements in students’ spatial reasoning abilities, but also that the growth trajectory was highest among students who struggled in this area,” did he declare.

“Students who started with slightly lower spatial reasoning skills than their peers demonstrated a growth trajectory three times greater than their peers who started with more developed skills. This group also reported increased enjoyment and reduced anxiety towards digital and design technology.

Makers Empire Director of Learning Mandi Dimitriadis was satisfied with the search results.

“Helping children develop their spatial reasoning skills in a fun and engaging way is truly rewarding, and we’re very excited to see evidence of what teachers have told us over the years,” Dimitriadis said.


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