A fortuitous leverage point for realizing our goals to reengineer undergraduate engineering by 2020 is that the engineering community can learn from the experiences of individuals and institutions working to transform undergraduate programs, within and beyond STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Leaders in other sectors, professions, and disciplines are similarly examining societal and educational trends that affect learning in their fields. The undergraduate physics community, for one, has worked for decades to establish goals for student learning and to develop inventories that monitor progress toward realizing those goals in individual classes, programs, and departments.1 So, collaborations within a campus—across disciplinary boundaries, engaging pedagogical pioneers—extend opportunities for sharing best practices beyond the community of engineering educators, for learning what works, for example, in building interdisciplinary teams, in serving students from groups currently underrepresented in the study and practice of STEM fields, and in bringing real-world concerns into a discovery-based learning environment.

STEM fields are all dealing with the same trends that are redefining the undergraduate learning environment, including:

  • the awareness that exposure to science, mathematics, technology, and engineering during their undergraduate career is good preparation for a “wide variety of societal roles; and that the nation will depend increasingly on a citizenry with a solid base of scientific and technical understanding” (Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education, 1996, p. 4);

  • the momentum toward integrating research and education so that all students have access to discovery-based, problem-solving learning experiences;


The Force Concept Inventory (FCI) is described by Hestenes et al. (1992) as the set of six Newtonian force concepts that leads to an accurate understanding of force and motion. The FCI explores student conceptual understanding of kinematics, the first, second, and third laws of motion, the superposition principle, and kinds of force by providing questions with a single Newtonian-based answer along with “commonsense” misconceptions that serve as powerful distracters.

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