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Assessment and repair of critical misconceptions in engineering heat transfer and thermodynamics

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

NSF Grantees' Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.221.1 - 23.221.6



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Paper Authors

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Michael J. Prince Bucknell University


Margot A Vigeant Bucknell University

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Dr. Margot Vigeant is an associate professor of chemical engineering and associate dean of engineering. She is interested in chemical engineering pedagogy, first-year programs, and international education.

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Katharyn E. K. Nottis Bucknell University

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Dr. Nottis is an educational psychologist and professor of education at Bucknell University. Her research has focused on meaningful learning in science and engineering education, approached from the perspective of Human Constructivism. She has authored several publications and given numerous presentations on the generation of analogies, misconceptions, and facilitating learning in science and engineering education. She has been involved in collaborative research projects focused on conceptual learning in chemistry, chemical engineering, seismology, and astronomy.

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This final report from our NSF funded (DUE 0717536) study examines the use ofinquiry-based teaching to promote misconception repair in four critical areas inheat transfer (rate of heat transfer vs. amount of energy transferred, confusionbetween temperature and energy, confusion between how something “feels” andits temperature, and confusion about radiation) and five critical areas inthermodynamics (Entropy, Equilibrium and Steady State, and Internal Energyand Enthalpy). Significant work demonstrates that students often enter theclassroom with tightly held misconceptions about the physical world that are noteffectively addressed through traditional lecture-style teaching. This work hastwo primary parts: the development and testing of a concept inventories toreliably assess students conceptual understanding in these areas and thedevelopment and assessment of inquiry-based activities designed to repairstudents’ misconceptions.For the instrument, reliability data was collected through both pre- and post-course assessments at over 15 institutions nationwide. Results indicated thatboth the Heat and Energy Concept Inventory (HECI) and the Concept Inventoryfor Engineering Thermodynamics (CIET) instruments have sufficient reliabilityduring post- testing for use as a research instruments. Results also indicate thatstudents enter their courses with significant misconceptions in the relevantconcept areas, tending to score about 50% on pre-tests. While instruction doesimprove conceptual understanding significantly relative to the pre- course scores,average overall scores are still in the 60%, indicating that further improvement isdesirable.One approach to the repair of misconceptions is through inquiry-based activities.In these activities, the instructor creates a laboratory or simulation situationwhere students may directly observe their misconceptions fail to explain theresults while the correct concepts succeed. A set of two activities along withworksheets and explanatory materials was developed for each misconceptionarea. These were tested at over 15 institutions. Use of these activities improvesstudents’ post- course scores on the concept inventories by about an additional 10percentage points on average, a significant improvement over both the pre-testand the non-intervention case.

Prince, M. J., & Vigeant, M. A., & Nottis, K. E. K. (2013, June), Assessment and repair of critical misconceptions in engineering heat transfer and thermodynamics Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19235

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