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Traffic Signal System Misconceptions across Three Cohorts: Novice Students, Expert Students, and Practicing Engineers

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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

24.1270.1 - 24.1270.10



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Paper Authors

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Mohammad Rabiul Islam Oregon State University


David S. Hurwitz Oregon State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. David S. Hurwitz is an assistant professor of transportation engineering in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University. David conducts research in the areas of transportation user behavior, traffic control, transportation safety, driving & bicycling simulation, and engineering education. In particular Dr. Hurwitz is interested in the consideration of user behavior in the design and innovation of transportation systems. David teaches graduate and undergraduate classes covering topics such as; Highway Engineering, Traffic Operations, Isolated Signalized Intersections, and Driving Simulation. Additionally, Dr. Hurwitz serves as an executive committee member of the Institute of Transportation Engineer's Traffic Engineering Council and Education Council, and as a member of the Transportation Research Board's Simulation and Measurement of Vehicle and Operator Performance committee (AND30), and Traffic Control Devices Committee (AHB50).

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

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ABSTRACTTheories of situated knowledge and research evidence suggest that students are not prepared forthe engineering workforce upon graduation from engineering programs. Concept inventoryresults from diverse fields suggest that students do not understand fundamental engineering,mathematics, and science concepts. These two concerns may result from different knowledgedeficiencies; one from lack of conceptual understanding and the other from lack of appliedknowledge. The research goals of this paper are to identify misconceptions related to trafficsignal operations and design in novice and expert engineering students and practicingengineering and to examine and attempt to explain the patterns in misconceptions across thesethree cohorts. Results indicate three patterns (decreasing, increasing, and no change) in thepresence of misconceptions across the three cohorts considered in this study (novice students,expert students, and practicing engineers). The pattern of decreasing misconception can beexplained by a traditional model of learning that suggested improved understanding withadditional instruction and student time on task. The pattern of increasing misconception appearedfor concepts that were particularly complex and confounded, where practicing engineersproduced much more complex answers that were mostly correct, but made leaps and speculationsnot yet proven in the literature. Misconception frequencies that stayed the same tended toincluded topics that do not have required national standards or that are buried in automatedprocesses. The process of identifying and documenting misconceptions that exist across thesecohorts is a necessary step in the development of data driven curriculum. An example of aconceptual exercise developed from four misconceptions in the clinical interviews is alsodemonstrated.

Islam, M. R., & Hurwitz, D. S., & Brown, S. A. (2014, June), Traffic Signal System Misconceptions across Three Cohorts: Novice Students, Expert Students, and Practicing Engineers Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23203

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