The STEM Spatial Cognition Enhancement Project

About the University of Glasgow

Glasgow University is one of the world’s most prestigious universities, producing ground-breaking research in a variety of disciplines. The university is recognised internationally for its contributions to academic scholarship and its commitment to driving positive change.

The Problem

There are still many barriers to women and those from disadvantaged backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These groups continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields. This restricts life opportunities for these groups, and results in their ideas and perspectives being excluded from the creation of innovative STEM-based solutions which are key to improving our society, such as advances in healthcare.

Inadequate access to quality education, especially in science and mathematics, can hinder students' ability to excel in STEM subjects. Schools in disadvantaged areas might lack the necessary resources, experienced teachers, and proper curriculum, which can affect students' preparation for higher-level STEM studies.

The Project

The development of spatial skills in children marks an important stage in their learning which has wide-ranging implications on their cognitive, academic, and practical capabilities. ‘Spatial skills’ encompass the skills that we use to reason about physical objects and the spatial relationships between them. The development of spatial skills has significant knock-on effects on children’s ability and confidence in STEM subjects.

In collaboration with The University of Glasgow, The STEM Spatial Cognition Enhancement Project, or STEM SPACE, will bring a spatialised maths curriculum – teaching typical maths lessons with more spatial activities – to children aged eight to nine years across schools throughout the West of Scotland.

The project, led by Professor Quintin Cutts at the University of Glasgow and supported by an advisory board of experts from across the field of spatial skills development and cognition, aims to develop the evidence needed to produce a transformative method for improving children’s ability and confidence across STEM subjects, independent of background or birth.

The Impact

STEM SPACE builds upon successful research undertaken in Australian schools by the University of Canberra. Materials from the Australian study have been evaluated by the Glasgow researchers and adapted for the context of STEM SPACE’s adapted curriculum.

The impact of the training on children’s ability and achievement in STEM subjects will be monitored before findings are reported in the first quarter of 2024. This page will be updated with developments upon completion of the projects and beyond.

“STEM is at the heart of solving some of the toughest issues we face, so it’s vital that everyone is given the opportunity to study these areas and that these fields are fully representative of the population. Spatial skills training offers us a unique opportunity to make STEM education and careers accessible to all young people, independent of their background.”
Ewan Kirk, co-founder and co-chair of the Turner Kirk Trust

Our impact. Recent programmes funded by the Trust