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Student Understanding Of Normal And Shear Stress And Deformations In Axially Loaded Members

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1125.1 - 15.1125.9



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Paper Authors

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Shane Brown Washington State University Orcid 16x16

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Dean Lewis Washington State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Student Understanding of Normal and Shear Stress and Deformation in Axially Loaded Members


Knowledge necessary for engineering design and innovation refers to more than the ability to search for an equation that suits the situation, but the ability to understand, apply, and transfer information to new situations. Conceptual understanding describes this type of understanding. Performance on physics and engineering concept inventories in topics such as thermodynamics, statistics, and fluid mechanics indicates that students do not have understanding of fundamental engineering and physics concepts. Results from these concept inventories are useful for gauging performance and stirring interest and concern, but lack detailed information on student thinking about engineering concepts. The goal of this project is to investigate student conceptual understanding of normal and shear stress in an axially loaded member using clinical demonstration interviews. Student interviews were conducted where students completed researcher designed conceptual problems and discussed their lines of reasoning as they completed the problems. Students generally were consistent and correct in their understanding of normal stress and strain in the direction of the applied load, but displayed incorrect answers and logic relating to normal stress and strain perpendicular to the load, and shear strain and stress. Results are consistent with those from other studies in science and engineering, in that misconceptions exist and students do not have strong understandings of even fundamental concepts.


A long line of research in physics, engineering, and mathematics suggests that students do not understand fundamental concepts in their respective fields 1-4. Without conceptual understanding, new graduates lack the ingenuity and creativity to approach new and dynamic challenges that must be addressed in the ever evolving workplace. Most research on conceptual understanding is focused on concept inventories, non-calculational conceptual multiple-choice assessments of student conceptual understanding. These studies provide insight into what misconceptions students have, but lack rich and detailed descriptions of students understanding of integrated concepts. Physics education researchers have investigated students’ conceptual understandings through in-depth interviews for more than twenty years. The purpose of this research is to investigate students’ conceptual understanding of normal and shear stresses and deformations using clinical interviews.

Research and Theories of Conceptual Change

Conceptual understanding can be understood considering the term conceptual change. Conceptual change has been a topic of study for over the last two and half decades 5 through many different theoretical frameworks. Conceptual change occurs when a student has a misconception that must be repaired and replaced with the correct conception. Misconceptions are defined as student conceptions that produce systematic patterns of error 6. Misconceptions

Brown, S., & Lewis, D. (2010, June), Student Understanding Of Normal And Shear Stress And Deformations In Axially Loaded Members Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16044

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