Uncovering and repairing crystal structure misconceptions in an introductory materials engineering class

Stephen Krause, Cindy Waters

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

6 Scopus citations


The crystal structure of a metal plays an important role in its relationship to its macroscopic properties as well as atomic mechanisms of structural change. As such, students need to have an ability to visualize planar crystal atomic packing features, but often find it difficult. Thus, the research question here is, 'How can a student's baseline knowledge and misconceptions of planar atomic packing features for different metal structures be measured and how well can instruction promote conceptual change and misconception repair.' Answering this question will provide insight for developing more effective pedagogy for crystal structures. A multiple-choice survey with six items was developed using misconceptions from students' pencil and paper sketches of face-centered cubic (FCC) and body-centered cubic (BCC) atoms on (100), (110), and (111) planes. Pretests and posttests of the survey were administered to students in a Spring 2012 introductory materials engineering course. Misconceptions that were revealed included: missing atoms, extra atoms, misplaced atoms, 'non-touching atoms where they should touch' and 'touching atoms that should not touch'. Students' difficulty in solving increased from (100) to (110) to (111) planes for both BCC and FCC structures. Details of the survey instrument and results are described in the paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2012 Frontiers in Education Conference
Subtitle of host publicationSoaring to New Heights in Engineering Education, FIE 2012 - Proceedings
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012
Event42nd Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2012 - Seattle, WA, United States
Duration: Oct 3 2012Oct 6 2012

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
ISSN (Print)1539-4565


Other42nd Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2012
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySeattle, WA


  • assessment
  • conceptual change
  • crystal structure
  • misconceptions
  • visualization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


Dive into the research topics of 'Uncovering and repairing crystal structure misconceptions in an introductory materials engineering class'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this