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Conceptual Change in Mechanics of Materials

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session


Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.324.1 - 23.324.9



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Paper Authors


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

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Dr. Shane Brown conducts research on cognition and conceptual change in engineering. He received his bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees from Oregon State University, both in civil engineering. His Ph.D. degree includes a minor in science and mathematics education. His master’s degree is in environmental engineering from the University of California, Davis. Dr. Brown is a licensed professional civil engineer and has six years of experience designing water and wastewater treatment facilities in central California. He was the recipient of the NSF CAREER award in 2011. Dr. Brown’s research interests are in conceptual change, epistemology, and social or situated cognition. Specifically, his research focuses on theoretical approaches to understanding why some engineering concepts are harder to learn than others, including the role of language and context in the learning process.

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Conceptual Change in Mechanics of Materials Conceptual change theories rely on data from disciplines outside of engineering,such as physics and astronomy, making the application of these theories to engineering atestable transition. There are diverse approaches to conceptual change theories, largelyfocused on the structure and size of bits of knowledge. In this work we analyzed a largeinterview data set from a diverse set of topics in mechanics of materials and consideredour data in light of the major tenets of conceptual change theories. Concepts in interviewdata include shear and normal stress in axial loads and beams, shear and bending momentdiagrams, and normal stress in mechanics topics in sophomore to graduate level courses.We examine the following misconception: stresses only occur in the direction of theapplied load. Students often believed that stresses only occurred in the direction of theapplied load, even when considering stress elements at orientations not parallel orperpendicular to the applied load. A theoretical explanation is attempted for thisexplanation in terms of language, epistemology, and ontology. Students appear to havesubstantial difficulty transitioning between ‘real-world’ and ‘academic’ epistemologicaldomains and language plays a large role in this transition. Findings are further utilizedfor teaching and curricular suggestions to facilitate the apparent transition.

Brown, S. A. (2013, June), Conceptual Change in Mechanics of Materials Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19338

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