Piezoelectric materials exhibit electromechanical coupling which has led to their widespread application for sensors, actuators, and energy harvesters. These materials possess anisotropic behavior with the shear coefficient have the largest electromechanical coupling coefficient. However the shear mode is difficult to measure with existing techniques and thus has not been fully capitalized upon in recent devices. Better understanding of the full shear response with respect to the driving electric field would significantly help the design of optimized piezoelectric shear devices. Here a simple and low cost direct measurement method based on digital image correlation is developed to characterize the shear response of piezoelectric materials and its nonlinear behavior as a function of external field. The piezoelectric shear coefficient (d15) of a commercial shear plate actuator is investigated in both bipolar and unipolar electric fields. Two different nonlinearities and hysteresis behaviors of the actuators were observed, and the relation between the driving field amplitude and the corresponding d15 coefficient is determined. Moreover, the measured transverse displacement of the plate actuator in simple shear condition is validated through a laser interferometry technique.

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