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Development and Pilot Test of the Rate and Accumulation Concept Inventory

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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

Concept Inventories and Assessment of Knowledge

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.515.1 - 26.515.28



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Paper Authors


Carli Denyse Flynn Syracuse University

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Carli Flynn is a PhD student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Syracuse University. She has a MS degree from Carnegie Mellon University and a BS degree from Cornell University. Her engineering research interests include studying green infrastructure adoption for stormwater management in U.S. municipalities. Her education research interests extend to understanding how learners make sense of complex problems that require coordinating knowledge from multiple disciplines, the integration of stakeholder considerations into the engineering design process, and mixed methods research designs. She is also involved in student-led initiatives that empower graduate students to use their skills to create a more sustainable world.

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Cliff I. Davidson Syracuse University

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Wilmot Professor of Engineering
Director, Environmental Engineering Program
Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems
and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

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Sharon Dotger

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Meredith Sullivan

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Development and Pilot Test of the Rate and Accumulation Concept InventoryMany of the rate of change and accumulation processes that we commonly encounter reflectcomplex systems. Solving complex system problems within engineering requires the ability tointerpret the meaning of a function that is modeling a dynamic situation. This ability has beendocumented as essential in representing and interpreting the changing nature of quantities in awide array of dynamic situations. Knowing how students think and learn about rate andaccumulation processes in complex systems can help educators better prepare students for theirengineering careers.Engineering students often have various robust misconceptions that can persist throughout theireducational career and may hinder their ability to learn new material. Concept inventories areassessment instruments that have been used in several STEM disciplines as a way to providereliable and valid assessment of students’ misconceptions. Some discipline specific inventoriesinclude assessments of conceptual frameworks related to rate and accumulation processes.However, these represent context specific understandings of rate and accumulation processes anddo not delve into the mathematical conceptual frameworks that may underlie the contextualmisconceptions captured.This paper reports evidence that many engineering students possess robust misconceptions aboutrate and accumulation processes. These findings led to the development of the Rate andAccumulation Concept Inventory (RACI), which is intended to assess the extent and types ofmisconceptions about rate and accumulation processes. Three sections of conceptualunderstanding were developed in the RACI: (1) first order calculus, (2) mass flow, in particularwater flow, and (3) heat transfer. All questions developed for this inventory were posed in eithera multiple choice or open ended format.Pilot testing of the RACI took place in a sophomore level civil and environmental engineeringcourse. Results from the initial administration of the RACI indicated the presence of multiplelevels of misconceptions among the students. The pilot test also tracked examples of studentwork throughout the course which best represented their understanding of rate and accumulationprocesses in various contexts. At the end of the course, the RACI was administered a secondtime in order to assess the continued misconceptions of rate and accumulation processes forindividual students. The results from the pilot test have informed the plans for ongoing andfuture work related to the RACI.

Flynn, C. D., & Davidson, C. I., & Dotger, S., & Sullivan, M. (2015, June), Development and Pilot Test of the Rate and Accumulation Concept Inventory Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23853

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