Super Sunday Session

Spatial Talents and STEM Programs: Identification and Curricular Innovations

Sunday, November 12
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM
Location: 212 AB

Learn about hands-on activities and practical applications to improve spatial thinking skills in your classroom. Spatial thinking skills predict STEM success, but schools largely fail to identify spatial gifts and to provide spatial programming. Even programming that targets students with other abilities related to STEM often overlooks the need to identify and develop spatial skills that can bolster students’ pursuit of STEM-related careers. In this session, three experts discuss the urgency for identifying and supporting spatially talented students. Evidence-based recommendations will be made on how schools and teachers can identify spatially gifted students and develop those skills through STEM-related programming.

Joni M. Lakin

Associate Professor
Auburn University

Dr. Lakin received her Ph.D. in Psychological and Quantitative Foundations from The University of Iowa. She completed an AERA-ETS Postdoctoral Fellowship at Educational Testing Service. She is now an associate professor at Auburn University in the Department of Educational Foundations, Leadership, and Technology. She conducts educational measurement research related to test validity and fairness with a particular interest in the accessibility of tests for English learner students. She is also involved in program evaluation focused on STEM education, building K-12 STEM excellence, and promoting STEM retention along the academic pipeline.


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Jonathan Wai

Case Western Reserve University and Geisinger Health

Jonathan Wai is a researcher at Case Western Reserve University and Geisinger Health. He studies how individual and contextual factors collectively impact the development of achievement and expertise across a variety of domains. He’s used historical, longitudinal, and experimental approaches to examine the multiple factors that contribute and take away from human capital development and how that’s connected to policies and conversations on enhancing creativity and innovation. His academic work has appeared in Journal of Educational Psychology, Current Directions in Psychological Science, Policy Insights From The Behavioral And Brain Sciences, Intelligence, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Journal of Advanced Academics, Gifted Child Quarterly, High Ability Studies, and Frontiers in Psychology: Developmental. He serves on the editorial boards of Intelligence and Journal of Expertise.


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Steve Coxon

Associate Professor and Executive Director
Maryville University Center for Access and Achievement

Steve Coxon, Ph.D., is assistant professor and director of programs in gifted education at Maryville University including the gifted education graduate program (, the grant-funded Maryville Young Scholars Program to increase diversity in gifted programs (, and the Maryville Science and Robotics Program for High Ability Students which serves more than 600 students ages 4-15 with 80 classes in all areas of STEAM with a focus on robotics ( Steve also directs the new STEM Education Certificate Program ( Steve conducts research on developing spatial ability and creativity and is author of numerous publications on these topics including the book Serving Visual-Spatial Learners. Steve is the science education columnist for Teaching for High Potential and the book review editor for Roeper Review. He volunteers as a judge advisor for the St. Louis area FIRST LEGO League. Steve was the 2010 recipient of the Joyce VanTassel-Baska Award for Excellence in Gifted Education.


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Spatial Talents and STEM Programs: Identification and Curricular Innovations

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