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Circuits Concept Inventories: A Comparative Analysis

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Pedagogy and Assessment in ECE II

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.277.1 - 15.277.11



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Paper Authors


Deepika Sangam Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Deepika Sangam is a Ph.D. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. She holds a M.S. degree from University of Maryland, College Park and B.E. from University of Mysore, India in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Her research interests are in the areas of teaching/learning of electrical engineering concepts

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Brent Jesiek Purdue University

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Brent Jesiek is assistant professor in Engineering Education and Electrical and Computer
Engineering at Purdue University. Dr. Jesiek holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from
Michigan Tech and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia
Tech. His research is focused on the social, historical, global, and epistemological dimensions of engineering and computing, with particular emphasis on subjects related to computer engineering, engineering education, and educational technology.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Circuits Concept Inventories: A Comparative Analysis

Keywords: circuits, comparative analysis, concept inventories, DC, electrical engineering, conceptual understanding


In this paper we perform an in-depth comparative analysis of concept inventories in the area of electrical circuits: Determining and Interpreting Resistive Electric Circuits Concept Test (DIRECT), Circuits Concept Inventories (CCI), AC/DC Concept Test, and Electrical Circuit Conceptual Evaluation (ECCE). Comparison of these inventories is based on different categories of analysis: the specific concepts covered, the structure/presentation of each inventory, and other relevant features. Analysis of concepts covered includes classification of questions under AC concepts or DC concepts and identifying specific, fundamental concepts in each area. Comparison of each concept inventories’ structure is based on types of questions, number of questions, number of questions on each concept, number of options for multiple choice questions, and question formalism (use of symbols, pictures, diagrams etc.). Other features that are compared include: nature of distracters, including types misconceptions that can be identified; reliability and validity; other applications; associated pedagogical interventions; and typical contexts in which each inventory has been used (high school, first year engineering, etc.). We conclude by recommending scenarios suitable for the application of each inventory, discuss opportunities for continued improvement of inventories in this domain, and identify some possible future directions for research. Our findings are of particular relevance for instructors wishing to administer a circuits concept inventory in their courses, and for those who are more generally interested in current research and development trends in the area of concept inventories.


Interest in identifying misconceptions using concept inventories largely began with the advent of the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) in the 1990s.1 Concept inventories (CIs) are assessment instruments that focus on fundamental concepts in a domain; concepts that are critical to building advanced knowledge in that domain. This provides a means of evaluating students’ conceptual understanding and not just problem solving ability as typically assessed using other methods (ex. course exams). Results of administering FCI indicated that students did not understand basic concepts in mechanics; evidence of this, along with the knowledge that students have prior conceptions of concepts in physics2, has created a need for concept inventories in different areas. Evidence of student misconceptions in the area of electrical circuits2,3,4, and evidence that even students who can solve problems quantitatively struggle to qualitatively explain the underlying concepts5, reveal a need for effective instruments to identify student misconceptions and assess instructional approaches that aim to remedy those misconceptions.

Concept inventories are often used as assessment instruments for conceptual knowledge, both by being administered as a pre-/post-test to evaluate the effectiveness of instruction in teaching concepts and used as an in-class assessment tool for immediate feedback. This feedback is also

Sangam, D., & Jesiek, B. (2010, June), Circuits Concept Inventories: A Comparative Analysis Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16184

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