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Introduction to materials engineering at Western Washington University has been transformed from a traditional lecture course to a conceptual knowledge-centered course using several different teaching strategies. This paper focuses on the development and assessment of conceptual understanding using written research papers and oral poster presentations. Pre- and post-class concept questionnaires, paper and poster rubrics, and scores on traditional exam and design questions were used to evaluate improvements in conceptual knowledge. The pre-class questionnaires revealed several significant deficiencies. The questionnaires also revealed how robust student misperceptions can be and that it is important to build several appropriate scaffolds to new knowledge during the term so the students can reconstruct their conceptual understanding. Written research papers and oral poster presentations were also used to help the students articulate their own understanding of material properties. The process of explaining to themselves and to others develops and constructs conceptual knowledge. Forming questions for others in the language of materials engineering similarly advances scaffolding. The assessment benchmarks indicate enhanced development in some conceptual areas. However, only limited progress was made in other important areas. Faculty time needed to complete the necessary assessments is definitely a limiting factor. Future directions conclude the paper.