Asee peer logo

Practicing Civil Engineers’ Understanding of Statics Concept Inventory Questions

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Concept Inventories and Assessment of Knowledge

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1236.1 - 26.1236.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Mark A Urlacher Oregon State University

visit author page

Mark Urlacher is a PhD student in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University. Mark is conducting research in engineering education with a focus on professional civil engineers and their understanding of concepts taught within civil engineering programs.

visit author page


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

visit author page

Shane Brown is an associate professor 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.

visit author page


Paul S. Steif Carnegie Mellon University

visit author page

Paul S. Steif is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. He received a Sc.B. in engineering from Brown University (1979) and M.S. (1980) and Ph.D. (1982) degrees from Harvard University in applied mechanics. He has been active as a teacher and researcher in the field of engineering education and mechanics. His research has focused on student learning of mechanics concepts and developing new course materials and classroom approaches. Drawing upon methods of cognitive and learning sciences, he has led the development and psychometric validation of the Statics Concept Inventory – a test of statics conceptual knowledge. He is the co-author of Open Learning Initiative (OLI) Engineering Statics, and he is the author of a textbook Mechanics of Materials, published by Pearson.

visit author page


Floraliza Bornilla Bornasal Oregon State University

visit author page

Floraliza B. Bornasal is a doctoral candidate in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University. Her research explores engineering practice and learning in workplace contexts. She received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Saint Martin’s University and her master’s degree in civil engineering - with a focus in transportation - at Oregon State University. Address: School of Civil and Construction Engineering, 211 Kearney Hall, 1491 SW Campus Way, Corvallis, OR 97331 Phone: 509-499-5187 Email:

visit author page

Download Paper |


Practicing Civil Engineers’ Understanding of Statics Concept Inventory QuestionsBackgroundEngineering concept inventories have been broadly used to assess student conceptual knowledgeand evaluate the effectiveness of educational innovations. Concept inventory questions weredeveloped to isolate concepts and typically include common misconceptions as possibleincorrect answers. Situated cognition theory may suggest that knowledge is an interactionbetween the individual and the context and that isolated concepts may be of little value to solvecontextual engineering problems. We began to test this proposition by implementing the staticsconcept inventory to practicing civil engineers.PurposeThe purpose of this research is to gather data on practicing civil engineers’ performance on thestatics concept inventory: how confident respondents were in their answers and whether theythought the concepts as presented in the statics concept inventory were relevant and important totheir work.Design/MethodThe statics concept inventory, implemented as an online survey, collected responses frompracticing engineers. Along with the questions from the concept inventory the engineers werealso asked to rate two other items on a scale of 1-10: how confident they were in their answerand whether the concept is relevant and important to their work.ResultsThere were 25 participants, all of whom were practicing civil engineers. The average number ofyears of experience was 11.4 yrs. The participants, on average, answered 13 questions (out of 27questions) correctly or a score of about 50%. The average self-reported level of confidence foreach participant was 5.5 out of 10 (min = 4.4, max = 10). The average rating for conceptrelevance was 4.4 out of 10 (min =2.2, max=7.2).ConclusionOur results provide insights into the statics concepts that professional civil engineersconceptualize correctly. Although the data set is not necessarily indicative of the largercommunity of professional engineers, it provides early evidence that not all concepts from thestatics concept inventory may be relevant for practicing civil engineers. More research is neededto understand how and why academic concepts are important to civil engineering practice.

Urlacher, M. A., & Brown, S. A., & Steif, P. S., & Bornasal, F. B. (2015, June), Practicing Civil Engineers’ Understanding of Statics Concept Inventory Questions Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24573

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015