This engineering education research project seeks to investigate how conceptual misunderstandings of students in different engineering disciplines have common features. By understanding patterns of misunderstandings, the project will attempt to develop a theory of engineering misconceptions that is trans-disciplinary. The PIs represent three different universities and multiple engineering disciplines. The large amount of data collected and archived by this project can serve to provide new insights on misconceptions.
The broader significance and importance of this project, if successful, will be to inform new ways of teaching engineering that better address students' conceptual understanding. Such knowledge is vital for practicing engineers, lays a foundation for lifelong learning, and provides a necessary framework for developing disciplinary expertise. Additionally a sound grasp of concepts may be important for developing innovative engineers, able to see deep connections between engineering fields. This project overlaps with NSF's strategic goals of transforming the frontiers through preparation of an engineering workforce with new capabilities and expertise. Additionally NSF's goal of innovating for society is enabled by supporting the development of innovative learning systems.