Evidence has indicated that children’s early interest in specific activities is related to later achievement in the corresponding skills. A recent study published in Contemporary Education Psychology explored the role children’s interest in spatial activities played in their spatial ability development. A total of 197 children (mean age = 52.7 months at baseline) from middle-class families was recruited from 4 local non-profit preschools in Hong Kong.
Children’s spatial ability was measured 4 times (T1 to T4) over a two-year period (autumn and spring in preschool years 2 and 3) using a 16-item visual-spatial skill task which requires preschoolers to identify a target figure presented in a partly or totally different orientation from four other figures. The children’s interest in spatial and art activities was reported by their mothers who ranked the interest of their children in a list of 13 activities from the Brief Reading Interest Scale (BRISC). The parents were asked to report their expectations concerning their children’s spatial skill development. The mothers reported family SES. Growth curve analysis was performed to examine the relationship between children’s interest in spatial activities at time 1 and the growth trajectory of spatial ability, after controlling for children’s age and sex, parental expectations and family SES. The results showed:
- Children with higher initial spatial ability had a lower subsequent spatial ability growth rate.
- Children’s interest in spatial activities was not related to their initial spatial ability (S. = -0.14, p = 0.128).
- However, higher interest in spatial activities at T1 predicted faster growth in spatial skills over the next year and a half (S. = 0.25, p = 0.042).
- Sex of child did not relate to either initial spatial ability or the growth rate.
The authors claimed that the type of interest measured in this study was personal interest, which is a relatively stable and long-term trait-type. It is important to preserve and promote children’s interest regardless of concurrent performance level. The authors also admitted that using the ranking of activities based on BRISC is an unconventional measure of interest and was a limitation of this study.
Source: Xiao, N., & Zhang, X. (2021). Interest in spatial activities predicts young children’s spatial ability development: A two-year longitudinal study. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 64, 101943. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2021.101943