An Atomic bonding module for materials engineering that elicits and addresses misconceptions with "Concept-in-Context" multimodal activities, worksheets, problems, and assessments

Stephen Krause, Jacquelyn Kelly, Dale Baker, Amaneh Tasooji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


For an introductory materials course, we address the research question, "How can misconceptions about atomic bonding in engineering materials be most effectively identified and addressed in order to develop engineering students' ability of understand and apply structure-property relationships of atomic bonding to real-world engineering materials?" Misconceptions on atomic bonding have been well studied for science classes with a focus on materials in the natural world, which usually have ionic and/or covalent bonding. However, the goal of introductory engineering materials classes is to understand structure, processing, properties and performance relationships of materials used in the engineering design of components, devices, and systems. As such, exposure to important engineering materials in earlier science classes, such as metals and polymers, may have been limited. Thus, at the beginning of a materials course, it is important to determine students' prior knowledge and misconceptions on bondingconcepts. To do so, a multimodal assessment was created to guide development of an atomic bonding module for the materials course. The pre-and-post module assessment elicited written and sketched descriptions about different bonding types, as well as the bonding types specifically found in metals, ceramics, and polymers. These assessments guided development of "Concept-in- Context" classroom clicker questions, concept eliciting activities, daily end-of-class student reflections, and concept-based homework assignments. It was found from earlier Materials Concept Inventory (MCI) pre-and-post course data, that there was limited understanding and little conceptual change for questions on metallic and van der Waals bonding. To address and repair students' faulty mental models on bonding, an atomic bonding module was created using coordinated concept-in-context multiple representations of content and activities. These included Concept-in-Context: 1) interactive, concept-based, mini-lecture power points that linked bonding concepts visually to context applications and related equations and graphs; 2) clicker questions for rapid feedback to students and instructor; 3) 2-D concept-sketching and 3-D concept modeling hands-on activities; 4) team-discussion, sort-and-match worksheets linking real-world items to bonding and properties and processing; 5) visual glossaries to foster spatial-visual conceptual definition and understanding; 5) open-ended, end-of-class reflection questions that queried student on their most interesting, muddiest, and takeaway points; and 6) homework with equation problems, graphing problems, sort-and-match worksheets and concept questions. Multiple assessments showed significant gains in conceptual knowledge and support of student learning. Details of results, analysis, conclusions and implications are presented and discussed in the full paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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