Teachers' Spatial Anxiety Relates to 1st- and 2nd-Graders' Spatial Learning


Address correspondence to Elizabeth A. Gunderson, Temple University, Department of Psychology, 1701 North 13th St., Philadelphia, PA 19122; email: liz.gunderson@temple.edu


Teachers' anxiety about an academic domain, such as math, can impact students' learning in that domain. We asked whether this relation held in the domain of spatial skill, given the importance of spatial skill for success in math and science and its malleability at a young age. We measured 1st- and 2nd-grade teachers' spatial anxiety (N = 19) and students' spatial skill (N = 132). Teachers' spatial anxiety significantly predicted students' end-of-year spatial skill, even after accounting for students' beginning-of-year spatial skill, phonological working memory, grade level, and teachers' math anxiety. Since spatial skill is not a stand-alone part of the curriculum like math or reading, teachers with high levels of spatial anxiety may simply avoid incorporating spatial activities in the classroom. Results suggest that addressing teachers' spatial anxieties may improve spatial learning in early elementary school.