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Conceptual Change across Engineering Disciplines

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.309.1 - 24.309.9



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Paper Authors


Ruth A. Streveler Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Ruth A. Streveler is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Dr. Streveler has been the Principal Investigator or co-Principal Investigator of ten grants funded by the US National Science Foundation. She has published articles in the Journal of Engineering Education and the International Journal of Engineering Education and has contributed to the Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research. She has presented workshops to over 500 engineering faculty on four continents. Dr. Streveler’s primary research interests are investigating students’ understanding of difficult concepts in engineering science and helping engineering faculty conduct rigorous research in engineering education.

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Devlin Montfort Oregon State University


Geoffrey L. Herman University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Geoffrey L. Herman is a visiting assistant professor with the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education. He earned his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a Mavis Future Faculty Fellow and conducted postdoctoral research with Ruth Streveler in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. His research interests include creating systems for sustainable improvement in engineering education, promoting intrinsic motivation in the classroom, conceptual change and development in engineering students, and change in faculty beliefs about teaching and learning. He is a recipient of the 2011 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty Grant. He helps steer the College of Engineering Dean’s Strategic Instructional Initiatives Program and consults with the Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education at the University of Illinois.

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


Holly M. Matusovich Virginia Tech

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Dr. Holly Matusovich (co-PI) is an Assistant Professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education. She has her doctorate in Engineering Education and her strengths include qualitative and mixed methods research study design and implementation. Her expertise includes motivation and related frameworks, using these frameworks broadly to study student engagement in learning, student recruitment into and retention within engineering programs and careers, faculty teaching practices and intersections of motivation and learning strategies.

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Conceptual Change Across Engineering DisciplinesExisting research on conceptual change (i.e. the effortful process of revising or changing one’sfundamental understanding of something) has drawn from various disciplines including physics,biology, mathematics and history. Little research has been done, however, investigating howdifferences in content may affect conceptual change in the various disciplines. The researchdescribed here investigates this question by analyzing data on student understanding ofengineering concepts from multiple content areas within the broad discipline of engineering:geometric design of highways, medium-scale integrated circuits, mechanics of materials, fluidmechanics, thermodynamics, signalized intersections and Boolean logic. In total this workincludes more than 200 interviews, of which a sub-set have been analyzed. These interviewswere originally conducted with the intent of characterizing student understanding of the varioustopics, and all use a semi-structured, clinical interview format. The purpose of the analysesreported here are to identify commonalities and differences in student understanding of thesecore “engineering” concepts in order to illuminate a developing theory of engineering-specificconceptual change. Intriguing commonalities in students’ conceptual understanding of diverseengineering sub-topics have been identified, including the uses of terminology, the applicationand quality of previous interaction with content (e.g. driving on a highway may be a more directinteraction with the engineering content of highway design than the use of a computer is directcontact with digital logic), the scales of phenomena and their analysis (e.g. the stresses andstrains in materials caused by loading are microscopic phenomena but are often analyzedmacroscopically), and the motivations of students to develop deeper understanding. Theseappear to be unique features of engineering content that will affect the conceptual change andunderstanding of engineering students differently. These findings can help refine the applicationof existing research on learning and conceptual change to engineering specifically, and will helpidentify gaps in our existing understanding that would be fruitful for future research.

Streveler, R. A., & Montfort, D., & Herman, G. L., & Brown, S. A., & Matusovich, H. M. (2014, June), Conceptual Change across Engineering Disciplines Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20200

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