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  1. Spatial ability has been shown through numerous studies to be a strong predictor of student success in STEM fields. Beyond the classroom, professionals demonstrating higher levels of spatial ability are also more likely to be successful in their STEM careers than their peers with lower spatial ability. Research has also shown that spatial ability is a malleable skill that can be strengthened through targeted intervention and leads to better retention in rigorous STEM fields. For this reason, spatial ability has been a significant focus of engineering education research. Despite the focus on spatial ability in engineering education research, members of the blind and low vision (BLV) population have largely been omitted from research in this area, likely due to the lack of a nonvisually accessible instrument for measuring spatial ability in a tactile format. This work utilizes the Tactile Mental Cutting Test (TMCT), a fully accessible adaptation of the commonly used multiple-choice Mental Cutting Test (MCT) spatial ability instrument which requires participants to identify cross sectional outlines from a three-dimensional object with a cut through it. This paper explores data collected from BLV participants who completed a TMCT test at National Federation of the Blind (NFB) sponsored summer programs for BLV youth, blindness training centers, and state and national NFB conventions. Raw scores from each TMCT participant were analyzed and ranked into high, medium, and low performing groups to help identify main characteristics of each group. In this study we examined patterns in the selected answer choices of the low scoring group to determine frequency of participant selection of distractors for each item of the TMCT. Analysis of the low-performer scores indicate that the majority of low scoring participants select incorrect answer choices that represent a side view or top view of the TMCT object as opposed to the true cross-sectional shape. Furthermore, the results suggest that certain answer choices may be overly difficult to distinguish between due to the tactile format of the exam. Results from this study can inform academia of the inherent differences between tactile and traditional spatial ability instruments and aid in the design of new tactile instruments. 
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  2. Historically, spatial ability assessments have been used to measure spatial thinking on specific constructs in students participating in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses. High spatial ability is linked to greater performance in STEM courses and professional STEM career fields. A spatial ability test used commonly for this measurement is the Mental Cutting Test (MCT) developed in 1939 by the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB). Unfortunately, the MCT is unable to measure the spatial thinking of blind or low-vision (BLV) populations due to the test being only accessible by sight. In 2018, a research lab from Utah State University (USU) adapted the MCT into a fully accessible tactile version, called the Tactile Mental Cutting Test (TMCT). The test was later split into two parallel forms, each containing 12 different questions from the MCT. The TMCT allows for researchers to better measure and understand the spatial abilities of BLV populations. The majority of BLV population samples that have taken the TMCT previously have been participants in training centers for the blind, which serve as training centers for helping BLV populations to build blindness skills and encourage independence. Additional data has been collected from youth camps sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and national and state NFB conventions. During the pandemic of COVID-19, many training centers across the country were closed for safety reasons, and many of the BLV population were confined to their homes to avoid infection risk. In this paper we compare pre-COVID-19 and post-2021 TMCT assessment data from BLV participants including scores and test duration between 2019 and 2022. Results show a statistically significant difference in how long it took participants to complete the TMCT between the two timeframes. 
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  3. There is ever-growing research indicating that high spatial ability correlates with student and professional success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses and career fields. A few valid and reliable testing instruments have been developed to measure specific constructs of spatial thinking in sighted populations. However, due to a lack of accessibility, most of these testing instruments are unable to be utilized by blind or low-vision (BLV) populations. 
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  4. There is significant work indicating that spatial ability has correlations to student success in STEM programs. Work also shows that spatial ability correlates to professional success in respective STEM fields. Spatial ability has thus been a focus of research in engineering education for some time. Spatial interventions have been developed to improve student’s spatial ability that range from physical manipulatives to the implementation of entire courses. These interventions have had positive impact upon student success and retention. Currently, researchers rely on a variety of different spatial ability instruments to quantify participants spatial ability. Researchers classify an individual’s spatial ability as the performance indicated by their results on such an instrument. It is recognized that this measured performance is constrained by the spatial construct targeted with that spatial instrument. As such, many instruments are available for the researchers use to assess the variety of constructs of spatial ability. Examples include the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test of Rotations (PSVTR), the Mental Cutting Test (MCT), and the Minnesota Paper Foam Board Test. However, at this time, there are no readily accessible spatial ability instruments that can be used to assess spatial ability in a blind or low vision population (BLV). Such an instrument would not only create an instrument capable of quantifying the impacts of spatially focused interventions upon BLV populations but also gives us a quantitative method to assess the effectiveness of spatial curriculum for BLV students. Additionally, it provides a method of assessing spatial ability development from tactile perspective, a new avenue for lines of research that expand beyond the visual methods typically used. This paper discusses the development of the Tactile Mental Cutting Test (TMCT), a non-visually accessible spatial ability instrument, developed and used with a BLV population. Data was acquired from individuals participating in National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Conventions across the United States as well as NFB sponsored summer engineering programs. The paper reports on a National Science Foundation funded effort to garner initial research findings on the application of the TMCT. It reports on initial findings of the instrument’s validity and reliability, as well as the development of the instrument over the first three years of this project. 
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  5. Spatial ability is an intelligence that has been shown to be particularly important in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. Targeted spatial interventions have been shown to improve spatial ability and support the success of individuals in these fields. However, the blind and low vision community has largely been omitted from this research, in part because no accepted and validated assessment of spatial ability is accessible to this population. This paper describes the development and preliminary validation of a new spatial ability instrument that is designed to be accessible non-visually. Although additional work is needed to finalize the test, preliminary analysis indicates that the test has high reliability and validity. 
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  6. In teaching mechanics, we use multiple representations of vectors to develop concepts and analysis techniques. These representations include pictorials, diagrams, symbols, numbers and narrative language. Through years of study as students, researchers, and teachers, we develop a fluency rooted in a deep conceptual understanding of what each representation communicates. Many novice learners, however, struggle to gain such understanding and rely on superficial mimicry of the problem solving procedures we demonstrate in examples. The term representational competence refers to the ability to interpret, switch between, and use multiple representations of a concept as appropriate for learning, communication and analysis. In engineering statics, an understanding of what each vector representation communicates and how to use different representations in problem solving is important to the development of both conceptual and procedural knowledge. Science education literature identifies representational competence as a marker of true conceptual understanding. This paper presents development work for a new assessment instrument designed to measure representational competence with vectors in an engineering mechanics context. We developed the assessment over two successive terms in statics courses at a community college, a medium-sized regional university, and a large state university. We started with twelve multiple-choice questions that survey the vector representations commonly employed in statics. Each question requires the student to interpret and/or use two or more different representations of vectors and requires no calculation beyond single digit integer arithmetic. Distractor answer choices include common student mistakes and misconceptions drawn from the literature and from our teaching experience. We piloted these twelve questions as a timed section of the first exam in fall 2018 statics courses at both Whatcom Community College (WCC) and Western Washington University. Analysis of students’ unprompted use of vector representations on the open-ended problem-solving section of the same exam provides evidence of the assessment’s validity as a measurement instrument for representational competence. We found a positive correlation between students’ accurate and effective use of representations and their score on the multiple choice test. We gathered additional validity evidence by reviewing student responses on an exam wrapper reflection. We used item difficulty and item discrimination scores (point-biserial correlation) to eliminate two questions and revised the remaining questions to improve clarity and discriminatory power. We administered the revised version in two contexts: (1) again as part of the first exam in the winter 2019 Statics course at WCC, and (2) as an extra credit opportunity for statics students at Utah State University. This paper includes sample questions from the assessment to illustrate the approach. The full assessment is available to interested instructors and researchers through an online tool. 
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  7. This paper seeks to illustrate the first steps in a process of adapting an existing, valid, and reliable spatial ability instrument – the Mental Cutting Test (MCT) – to assess spatial ability among blind and low vision (BLV) populations. To adapt the instrument, the team is developing three-dimensional (3-D) models of existing MCT questions such that a BLV population may perceive the test tactilely with their hands. This paper focuses on the development of the Tactile MCT (TMCT) instrument and does not report on the use of or results from the new instrument. Future work will investigate the validity and reliability of the adapted instrument. Each TMCT question is created by modeling and 3-D printing the objects represented by two-dimensional pictorial drawings on the MCT. The 3-D models of 25 items of the MCT are created using a solid modeling process followed by an additive 3-D printing process. The correct answer to each MCT question is the section view defined by a plane-of-interest (POI) intersecting the figure in question. A thin plane extending from the figure identifies the POI of each problem. The possible answers were originally presented in multiple representations including 3-D printed extrusions on top of a thin plate, and two forms of tactile graphics. The 3-D printed answers are developed by a combination of acquiring accurate dimensions of the 3-D figure’s cross-section and scaling up the printed paper test. To improve this adaptation of the MCT instrument, the TMCT models and their respective multiple-choice answers will be inspected by a spatial cognition expert as well as several BLV individuals. Feedback from these individuals will provide insight into necessary revisions before the test is implemented. 
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