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Comparison of Conceptual Knowledge of Shear Stress in Beams Between Civil Engineering Undergraduates and Practitioners

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Industry and Practice Topics

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Dominga Sanchez Oregon State University

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Dominga Sanchez is a graduate student in the Civil and Construction Engineering Department at Oregon State University. During her undergraduate studies at University of California San Diego, she worked in research projects related to earthquake engineering and engineering education. She is currently conducting engineering education research while pursuing a doctoral degree in Civil Engineering. Her research interests include, engineering curriculum development, earthquake engineering, diversity and inclusion in engineering programs.

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Shane A. Brown P.E. Oregon State University Orcid 16x16

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Shane Brown is an associate professor and Associate School Head in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University. His research interests include conceptual change and situated cognition. He received the NSF CAREER award in 2010 and is working on a study to characterize practicing engineers’ understandings of core engineering concepts. He is a Senior Associate Editor for the Journal of Engineering Education.

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Matthew Stephen Barner Mackenzie Orcid 16x16

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Structural Engineer at Mackenzie

Research interests include: engineering education, diffusions of innovation, concerns-based adoption model, conceptual change theory, and earthquake engineering.

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Shear stress is an essential concept for engineering undergraduates to understand and apply in civil engineering problem-solving. This exploratory study compares undergraduate engineering students’ and practicing civil engineers’ conceptual knowledge of shear stress in beams utilizing a concept inventory. Concept inventories have been used in engineering disciplines as a form of assessment of student conceptual understanding and are presumed to be important for measuring conceptual growth towards successful engineering practice. It can also provide insight into how to enhance undergraduate engineering education to focus on concepts most relevant to engineering practice. The 23 question strengths of materials concept inventory was implemented, resulting in responses from 153 undergraduate engineering students and 119 practicing civil engineers. Three questions that focused on shear stress in beams were analyzed. Although overall results indicate that practicing engineers perform better than students, performance from all participants is low in the three shear stress beam questions. Undergraduates had a higher presence of misconceptions related to the location of maximum shear stress in a bending beam while practicing civil engineers demonstrated a misconception that the maximum shear stress is located at the ends or support of the bending beam. Both groups were challenged with locating where the maximum shear stress is located depending on the type of plane. Outcomes from this study suggest more work may be needed when addressing conceptual understanding related to shear stress concepts.

Sanchez, D., & Brown, S. A., & Barner, M. S. (2021, July), Comparison of Conceptual Knowledge of Shear Stress in Beams Between Civil Engineering Undergraduates and Practitioners Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36820

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