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Community College Students’ Self-efficacy and Conceptual Knowledge of Circuit Analysis

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Two-year College Division: Authors Address Transfer Matters-Part I

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.367.1 - 26.367.10



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Paper Authors


Carl Whitesel Mesa Community College

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Carl Whitesel has spent his career teaching Engineering Technology, and has taught in the community college setting since 2007. He is currently teaching Robotics and Automated Systems within the Arizona Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AzAMI) at Mesa Community College. His teaching focus is primarily on circuit analysis, electronics, motors and sensors. He earned his Ph.D. in Engineering Education Curriculum and Instruction, from Arizona State University in 2014. His primary research interests are conceptual knowledge, concept inventories and self-efficacy.

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Adam R. Carberry Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Adam Carberry is an assistant professor at Arizona State University in the Fulton Schools of Engineering Polytechnic School. He earned a B.S. in Materials Science Engineering from Alfred University, and received his M.S. and Ph.D., both from Tufts University, in Chemistry and Engineering Education respectively. Dr. Carberry was previously an employee of the Tufts’ Center for Engineering Education & Outreach and manager of the Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program (STOMP).

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Community College Students’ Self-Efficacy and Conceptual Knowledge of Circuit AnalysisPrior knowledge provides a foundation for learning new concepts. It also provides anopportunity to build high domain-specific self-efficacy linking self-efficacy and conceptualknowledge. The domain of DC circuit analysis has yet to be investigated for the population ofstudents enrolled in community colleges. Understanding the link between self-efficacy andconceptual knowledge of circuit analysis may help community college instructors as theirstudents become more proficient in circuit analysis.An instrument was created in the fall 2013 semester to measure the relationship between self-efficacy for and conceptual knowledge of DC circuit analysis. The instrument was a three-tieredconcept-inventory that included: Tier 1: Multiple choice assessment of understanding related to a DC analysis concepts Tier 2: Multiple choice question regarding subjects’ reasoning for their response in the first tier, with an option for them to write a response in their own words. Tier 3: Questions related to subjects’ confidence in their answers to the first two tiers. Responses were via a 100-point range on a Likert scale with 10-unit intervals..This multi-tiered approach was consistent with prior approaches in the literature. A samplequestion from the instrument is shown in Figure 1.The instrument was given as part of a pre/post-test to a sample (N = 37) of the population ofstudents enrolled in three engineering technology circuit analysis classes. SAS statisticalanalysis software was used to analyze the data. Internal reliability of the instrument was checkedfor both the pre- and post-test, and was found to be excellent (α = 0.935). Face and contentvalidity for the first two tiers were established via the research performed by the authors of thesource concept inventories (DIRECT and SECDT). Face and content validity for the self-efficacy questions were established via research on past studies that used this approach fordomains outside of circuit analysis. Construct validity for the instrument was not established dueto the low number of subjects and the large number of characteristics measured. Group effectsfor the population from the three separate classes was analyzed using Analysis of Variance(ANOVA). No differences were present for the pre-test [F(2,36) = 0.50, p = 0.612] or the post-test [F(2,36) = 0.20, p = 0.817].The data set was analyzed for correlation between self-efficacy for and conceptual knowledge ofcircuit analysis. Self-efficacy was significantly correlated with conceptual knowledge. This wasobserved on both the pre-test (R = 0.42, p = 0.010) and post-test (R = 0.42, p = 0.009), which inboth cases represents a moderate and positive correlation. This research adds circuit analysis tothe existing body of knowledge. Knowing this relationship could help guide community collegeinstructors as they observe their students struggling with DC circuit analysis.Figure 1: Sample Question from InstrumentReferring to the figure above, what happens to the potential difference between points 1 and 2 if Bulb A isremoved? Circle the letter next to your answer.a. Increases b. Decreases c. Stays the sameWhich one of the following is the reason for your answer in the first part? Circle the letter next to your answer.a. The battery provides the same amount of current to each circuit, regardless of the circuit arrangement.b. Parallel connections have the same voltage.c. Since the bulbs are equal, removing bulb A leaves twice as much current for bulb B.d. By removing bulb A, there is more current in the circuit, and thus more voltage for bulb B.e. _____________________________________________________________________How confident are you about your answers given for parts 1 and 2? Circle the number that best matches howconfident you are. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100Not at all Maybe/ Not Pretty Completelyconfident Sure Confident Confident

Whitesel, C., & Carberry, A. R. (2015, June), Community College Students’ Self-efficacy and Conceptual Knowledge of Circuit Analysis Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23706

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