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The interpretation of mathematical models and how they relate to the physical world is a key skill of the practice of structural engineering. At undergraduate level, there has been a noted reduction in students’ physical intuition in recent years. The teaching of structural engineering must therefore adapt itself to these new realities to maintain public confidence in the safety of society’s infrastructure.

The work carried out for this Fellowship project tacked the identified deficits at two ends of the spectrum of physical intuition. Third year students were introduced to basic structural models, whilst final year students were exposed to the inner workings of structural engineering software so that they may better link their hand calculations and typical commercial software. Pre-and post-testing using multiple choice questions were used to ascertain the effectiveness of the interventions. The results are generally inconclusive as evidence was found that the multiple choice questions may not be the best form of assessing interventions in physical reasoning. It is clear that more work remains to be done in this area.