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Our Introduction to Materials Engineering course is being transformed to an active, learner-centered environment which includes numerous conceptual learning opportunities. Understanding why students fail to understand a certain concept and what to do about it in the classroom requires a deeper analysis than simply recording wrong answers. This paper describes another strategy to find student misperceptions - analyzing student research papers. Students are required to write a research paper that describes why a certain material is used for a particular product; also, it must include an in-depth analysis of the materials properties that are needed for function. Student must reveal what they conceptually know since they have to articulate why a certain material is chosen over another material, or why a new material has replaced another. Thus, those research papers contain a wealth of information about how students think about materials and on a level that is not possible to explore with concept questions or interviews. This paper describes an overview of the course transformation, the research paper, what has been discovered about student misperceptions from the papers, and what changes have been made in the classroom. The paper concludes with assessment information and outlines future tasks.
Date of Conference: 10-13 Oct. 2007