**Educational Research of Professor Paul S.
Steif**

- Research to better
understand how students learn (or do not learn) basic engineering
subjects.
- Development of educational materials that will help students achieve the necessary, fundamental understanding of engineering subjects.

Most of Professor Steif's work currently addresses learning in Statics and Mechanics of Materials.

Conceptual Basis for Statics

Concept Inventory for Statics

Promoting Problem Solving Ability in Statics through Body-Centered Talk

Reorganization of Statics Instruction

Web-based Course in Statics

Problem Solving Courseware for Mechanics of Materials

Elementary FEA to Improve Visualization of Deformation

Modeling of Engineering Systems

Computer Tutor for Truss Analysis

This project is aimed at identifying the fundamental concepts which are necessary to learning Statics and how students understand and misunderstand those concepts. We arrive at students perceptions of concepts through interviews of students' and analysis of errors they commit while solving problems. A set of fundamental concepts and skills can provide a principled basis both for instruction and for assessing learning. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

P. S. Steif, “*An Articulation
of the Concepts and Skills which Underlie Engineering Statics*,” 34th ASEE/IEEE
Frontiers in Education Conference, Savannah, GA., October 21-23, 2004.
[Download PDF, 169KB]

J.L. Newcomer and P.S.
Steif, “*Student Thinking about Static Equilibrium: Insights from Written
Explanations to a Concept Question*,” Journal of Engineering Education,
Vol. 97, pp. 481-490, (2008).
[Download PDF, 1136KB]

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to top)*

In this project we have developed a test (the Concept Assessment Tool for Statics or the Statics Concept Inventory) to measure a student's ability to use core Statics concepts. Each question of the test requires the use of a single concept in isolation and involves negligible mathematical analysis. The Statics Concept Inventory builds upon the project addressing the Conceptual Basis for Statics.

This test has been taken by over 2500 students prior to Statics (pre-test) and by over 4000 students after Statics (post-test) at more than 20 universities. Extensive psychometric analyses have established the reliability and validity of this test. More details can found in http://engineering-education.com/CATS-index.php.

Funded by the National Science Foundation through grant REC-0440295.

P. S. Steif and J. Dantzler,
*“A Statics Concept Inventory: Development And Psychometric Analysis*,”
J. Eng. Educ., Vol. 33, pp. 363-371, 2005. [Download PDF,
253KB]

P. S. Steif and M. Hansen,
“*Comparisons Between Performances In A Statics Concept Inventory And Course
Examinations*,” Int. J. Eng. Educ, Vol. 22, pp. 1070-1076, 2006. [Download PDF,
219KB]

P.S. Steif and M. A. Hansen,
“*New Practices for Administering and Analyzing the Results of Concept Inventories*,”
J. Eng. Educ., Vol. 96, pp. 205-212, 2007. [Download PDF,
723KB]

**Below is a sample question from the Statics Concept Inventory**

This project builds on the critical relation between bodies and forces, which is inherent in the conceptual framework of Statics. In this project we investigate the hypotheses that students can be induced through instruction to talk more about the bodies present in a Statics problem, and that such talk improves problem solving performance. To this end we have developed technology for capturing student solutions of Statics problems with synchronous think aloud protocols. Solutions and protocols are graded and coded, respectively, and then analyzed to evaluate these hypotheses.

Funded by the National Science Foundation through grant REC-0440295

P. S. Steif, A. L. Fay,
L. B. Kara, and S. E. Spencer “*Work in Progress — Improving Problem Solving
Performance in Statics through Body-Centric Talk”* 36rd ASEE/IEEE Frontiers
in Education Conference, San Diego, CA., October, 28-31, 2006. [Download PDF,
135KB]

P.S. Steif, J. Lobue, A.
L. Fay, L. B. Kara, and S.E. Spencer, *Inducing Students To Contemplate Concept-Eliciting
Questions And The Effect On Problem Solving Performance*, Proceedings of
the 2007 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference &
Exposition, Honolulu, HI, June 24-27, 2007. [Download PDF,
232KB]

P.S. Steif, J. Lobue, A.
L. Fay, and L. B. Kara, *Improving Problem Solving Performance by Inducing Talk about Salient Problem Features*,
J. Eng. Educ., Vol. 99, pp. 135-142, 2010. [PDF,
848KB]

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This project seeks to re-invent Statics instruction based on two premises:

- Individuals who are new to Statics and Physics have difficulty
understanding that forces exist between rigid, unmoving inanimate objects.
- Concepts of Statics should be treated gradually, in sequence, with mathematical manipulations initially kept to a minimum.

We have reformulated instruction in Statics to address concepts one at a time and, initially, only in the context of forces that are readily perceived by the senses of touch and sight. Emerging from this reformulation is a series of in-class Learning Modules, featuring: objects to manipulate or examine, PowerPoint Presentations, and Concept Questions. The instructor controls the PowerPoint Presentations, which step students through a series of ideas and questions related to the objects. The Concept Questions are multiple-choice questions that assess student understanding of concepts, and which require little or no analysis.

P. S. Steif and A.
Dollár, “*Enriching Statics Instruction with Physical Objects*”,
Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual
Conference & Exposition, American Society for Engineering, Montreal,Canada,
June 23-26, 2002.

A. Dollár and P. S.
Steif, “*Understanding Internal Loading Through Hands-On Experiences*”,
Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual
Conference & Exposition, Montreal, Canada, American Society for Engineering,
June 23-26, 2002.

P. S. Steif and A.
Dollár, *A New Approach To Teaching And Learning Statics*, Proceedings
of the 2003American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference &
Exposition, Nashville,

A. Dollár and P. S. Steif, *Learning Modules For The Statics
Classroom*, Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering
Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Nashville, TN, June 22-25, 2003.
[Download PDF, 115KB]

P. S. Steif and A. Dollár, *Collaborative, goal-oriented, Manipulation of
Artifacts by Students during Statics Lecture*, 33rd ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education
Conference, Boulder, Co., November 5-8, 2003. [Download PDF, 131KB]

A. Dollár and P. S. Steif, “*Reinventing the Teaching of Statics*”,
Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Salt Lake City, UT, June
20-23, 2004. [Download PDF, 192KB]

P. S. Steif and A. Dollár, “*Integrating Effective General Classroom
Techniques With Domain-Specific Conceptual Needs*”, Proceedings of the 2004
American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition,
Salt Lake City, UT, June 20-23, 2004. [Download PDF, 316KB]

P. S. Steif and A. Dollár,
“*Reinventing the Teaching of Statics*”, Int. J. Eng. Educ., Vol. 21,
pp. 723-729, 2005. [Download PDF,
239KB]

A. Dollár and P. S. Steif, “Learning Modules for Statics,” International Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 22, pp.381-392, (2006) [Download PDF, 670KB]

Below is a Slide of a Learning Module addressing conditions for
Equilibrium in 3-D

This course is part of a larger project to create and sustain freely available, cognitively informed learning tools designed to provide a substantial amount of instruction through the digital learning environment. Such instruction provides opportunities to teach larger numbers of students with the same amount of human instructional support, and enables both asynchronous and distance learning. The Statics course will be divided into approximately twenty modules. Each module is based on a set of carefully articulated learning objectives and contains various interactive exercises. The explanation of basic concepts capitalizes appropriately on the computer's capability for displaying digital images, video, and animations controlled by the user. Assessment is tightly integrated within each module, with students confronting frequently interspersed "Learn By Doing" exercises, which offer hints and feedback. "Did I Get It" assessments at the end of each segment allow students to determine if learning was accomplished.

Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation through Carnegie Mellon University's "Open Learning Initiative" (OLI)

A. Dollár and P.
S. Steif, *“Web-Based Statics Course”*, 36rd ASEE/IEEE Frontiers
in Education Conference, San Diego, CA.,October, 28-31, 2006. [Download PDF,
361KB]

A. Dollár and P.
S. Steif, (2008) “An Interactive, Cognitively Informed, Web-Based Statics
Course”, International Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 24, No.
6, pp. 1229-1241. [Download PDF,
1287KB]* (interactive paper at: http://www.ijee.dit.ie/OnlinePapers/Interactive/Dollar_Steif/StaticsCourse.html)*

P.S. Steif and A. Dollar, *Study of Usage Patterns and Learning Gains in a Web-based Interactive Static Course*,
J. Eng. Educ., Vol. 98, pp. 321-333, 2009. [PDF,
1600KB]

*More information about the OLI Engineering Statics course can be found at:
http://engineering-education.com/OLI.php*

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In this project, we have developed software to offer students in Mechanics of
Materials an alternative, and in some respects more effective, problem solving
experience. Resulting from this investigation has been a set of six modules.
Each module focuses one key topic, such as shear force and bending moment
diagrams. Within each module there is a limited set of physical configurations,
for example beams that are simply supported or cantilevered, with a limited set
of load types. But, different problems approach the configuration in a distinct
ways. For example, some problems lead the student through the drawing of the
diagrams, some problems let the student draw the diagrams independently, and
some problems give the diagrams and have the students deduce the loads. In some
modules, such as one on axial loading, the distinct concepts associated with
each class of problem unfold in a gradual and natural way, with successive
problems building on the previous ones.

Students get immediate feedback
on whether they solve each problem correctly, and they are offered randomly
generated versions of similar problems until they can be solved correctly. This
approach allows students to develop a better grasp of fundamental principles, an
intuitive sense of the meaning of key quantities, and fluency in using relations
to solve problems. Students use modules independently and submit electronic log
files to instructors who can monitor their progress.

P. S. Steif, *Computer-Based Learning Aids for Problem Solving in
Mechanics of Materials*, Proceedings of the 2000 American Society for
Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, American Society for
Engineering, St. Louis, MO, June, 2000.

P. S. Steif, *Courseware for Problem
Solving in Mechanics of Materials*, Proceedings of the 2002 American
Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, American
Society for Engineering, June 23-26, 2002.

P. S. Steif and L. M. Naples, *Design and Evaluation of Problem Solving
Courseware Modules For Mechanics of Materials*, Journal of Engineering
Education, Vol. 92, pp. 239-247, (2003). [Download PDF, 601KB]

Below is a problem from the StressAlyzer program addressing Shear
Force and Bending Moment Diagrams

Students need to be prepared for the engineering workplace, in which computer aided engineering tools are ubiquitous. Furthermore, CAE tools could be an excellent teaching tool. For example, by showing the deformed shape of a body, a finite element program can enable students to improve their ability to visualize deformation. Unfortunately, the use of commercial CAE packages is infeasible in many departments, and challenging for students to learn. Therefore, we have developed a very simple, web-based finite element program. This program is made accessible to students, even at level of a first mechanics of materials class, by giving it minimal capabilities: planar rectangular domains, only two types of elements, uniform meshing, isotropic linear elasticity, and only force or displacement boundary conditions. To pave the way to commercial FEA software, this simple program involves the same conceptual steps as commercial versions: specifying the domain, material, element type, mesh, and boundary conditions, solving and viewing results. The program is useful both for students to use independently in solving homework problems and for demonstrating ideas in lecture.

More details, as well as the current version of the program, can be found at http://engineering-education.com/FEA-index.php. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

P. S. Steif and E. Gallagher, “*Transitioning Students To Finite Element
Analysis And Improving Learning In Basic Courses*”, 34th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers
in Education Conference, Savannah, GA., October 21-23, 2004. [Download PDF,
83KB]

Modeling of physical systems is a key engineering task, used, for example, to support design and to troubleshoot problems in the field. While modeling is tacitly the goal of most engineering science courses, there seems to be no accepted approach to developing the modeling skills of students. This project is aimed at laying the basis for such approaches by identifying the constituent components of the modeling process. We seek to describe modeling at a level of abstraction which allows us to account for modeling in many distinct engineering domains. Our primary methodology in identifying tasks has been through protocol analysis. Advanced graduate students are recorded as they are asked to

M. Pantazidou and P. S. Steif, *Modeling Of Physical Systems: A Framework
Based On Protocol Analysis*, Proceedings of Int. Meeting on Civil Engineering
Education, Ciudad Real,

P. S. Steif and M. Pantazidou, “*Identifying the Components of Modeling
Through Protocol Analysis*”, Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for
Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Salt Lake City, UT,
June 20-23, 2004 [Download PDF,
81KB]

M. Pantazidou and P. Steif, *Modeling Instruction in an Environmental Geotechnics
Course*, Proceedings of GeoCongress 2008, New Orleans, March 9–12,
ASCE Geotechnical Special Publication 178:797-804, ( 2008) [Download PDF,
83KB]

Even in elementary courses such as statics, some problems such as truss problems, can be complex. They require students to plan and carry out multiple analyses, feeding the results from one analysis to another. Typically, students do not receive timely, meaningful, and useful feedback on handwritten solutions to such problems. In this project, we have developed a computer tutor that allows students to solve truss problems with significant latitude, and still follows their work and gives them feedback to ultimately reach correct solutions. At the same time, data on student work is captured that signals whether learning is occurring, that is whether errors in applying each concept and skill are decreasing with practice. A brief video demonstrating the tutor is here.

Steif, P.S., Fu, L., Kara, L.B., *Technical Report: Development of a cognitive tutor for learning truss analysis*, 2013
[Download PDF, 1.6 MB]