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Conceptual Understanding of Resistive Electric Circuits Among First-year Engineering Students

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Poster Session

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.339.1 - 25.339.11



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Paper Authors


Deepika Sangam Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Deepika Sangam is a final year 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 K. Jesiek Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Brent K. Jesiek is Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education and School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., USA. He is also an Associate Director of Purdue’s Global Engineering Program, and leads the Global Engineering Education Collaboratory (GEEC) research group. He holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in science and technology studies (STS) from Virginia Tech. His research involves social, cultural, historical, and epistemological studies of global engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and engineering education research.

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Conceptual Understanding of Resistive Electric Circuits Among First- Year Engineering StudentsExtensive research on student understanding of physical science concepts has established thatmany students have deep-rooted misconceptions that are often difficult to change. This researchtypically involves in-depth and large-scale assessments of student conceptual knowledge, withconcept inventories as the primary instrument of choice for such studies. In this paper we presentresults from administering the Determining and Interpreting Resistive Electric Circuit ConceptsTest (DIRECT) inventory to first-year honors engineering students (n≈150). This study wascoordinated around a one-week module on electrical circuit theory, with the concept inventoryadministered immediately before and after the module. Students were also given an open-endedquestionnaire during the pre-test and a survey to evaluate the instructional module along with thepost-test.This paper begins with a brief description of the learning module, which featured a number ofinstructional innovations. We then discuss several findings from our analysis of the survey dataanalysis. First, we find that while a majority of the students had completed Advanced Placement(AP) Physics/Electronics courses and were currently enrolled in college level physics courses,they still had significant difficulties solving many basic problems involving resistive circuits.Further, no significant improvements were observed in overall scores when the conceptinventory was administered immediately after the one-week module, although some specificquestions had significant pre/post increases. Our findings highlight many of the persistentdifficulties faced by students in this conceptual domain. Factors such as prior educationalexperiences and intended major (i.e., ECE vs. non-ECE) were shown to predict studentperformance on the concept inventory at statistically significant levels. This study has alsohelped us identify concepts that are especially difficult for students, including specificmisconceptions in this domain.We conclude the paper by first describing how this study has informed a new stage of researchinvolving a more in-depth qualitative study of misconceptions in this domain, including acrossstudent levels (i.e., first-year to junior/senior). We also discuss how a number of insights fromthis study can help instructors and curriculum developers assess and improve conceptualunderstanding in the context of their own courses.

Sangam, D., & Jesiek, B. K. (2012, June), Conceptual Understanding of Resistive Electric Circuits Among First-year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21097

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