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Development Of A Concept Inventory In Heat Transfer

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Student Learning

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.469.1 - 14.469.14



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Paper Authors

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Michael Prince Bucknell University

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Margot vigeant bucknell

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Katharyn Nottis Bucknell University

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

Development of a Concept Inventory in Heat Transfer Keywords: heat, misconceptions, concept inventory


Initial research with chemical engineering students suggests several areas where students appear to have robust misconceptions. In heat transfer, those areas include (1) temperature vs. energy, (2) temperature vs. perceptions of hot and cold, (3) factors which affect the rate of transfer vs. those which affect the amount of energy transferred and (4) the effect of surface properties on radiation. This study reports on the development of a concept inventory to assess these concept areas. Data was collected from approximately 400 chemical engineering students enrolled in about a dozen undergraduate programs over a two-year period of instrument development. Content validity was assessed by panels of engineering faculty who teach in these areas. Internal reliability was assessed through calculation of split-half reliabilities and KR20 (Kuder-Richardson Formula) values. Reliability was assessed for the instruments as a whole and for each specifically targeted misconception area.


There is a growing recognition that students enter classrooms with preconceptions which act as filters for new learning (Smith, diSessa, & Roschelle, 1993). This prior knowledge can interfere with concept mastery. There is also a broad realization that meaningful learning of science content requires conceptual understanding rather than memorization of facts and formulas (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Lightman & Sadler, 1993), along with a growing appreciation that traditional instructional methods can be ineffective at altering students’ preconceptions (Suping, 2003).

Engineering education has started to examine students’ conceptual understanding and the instructional methods used in undergraduate courses. Guidance for addressing these issues in engineering education can be found in physics education (Hake, 1998; Laws et al., 1999). However, what has prevented engineering education from capitalizing extensively on the success in physics education has been the lack of knowledge of the relevant literature, the lack of concept inventories to assess conceptual understanding in engineering, and the lack of inquiry-based activities in engineering similar to those shown to be effective in physics. This study contributes by developing an assessment instrument for heat transfer, which is a required topic for chemical, mechanical and other engineering fields.

Confusion among concepts such as heat, energy and temperature is widely recognized in the literature (e.g., Carlton, 2000; Jasien & Oberem, 2002; Thomaz, Malaquiz, Valente, & Antunes, 1995). A Delphi study identified several concepts in thermal and transport

Prince, M., & vigeant, M., & Nottis, K. (2009, June), Development Of A Concept Inventory In Heat Transfer Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5549

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