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Development of a New Concept Inventory for Mechanics of Materials

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

The 'Strengths' of Mechanics

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Stephen N. Kuchnicki York College of Pennsylvania

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Dr. Stephen Kuchnicki has been an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at York College of Pennsylvania since August 2013 and an Assistant Professor from January 2008 until that date. From 2015-2019, he also served as Coordinator of Mechanical Engineering, a position in which he managed the operation of the program at York College of Pennsylvania.
Previously, he was a postdoctoral research associate at Rutgers University, specializing in computational modeling of dynamic deformations in solids. His areas of technical expertise include solid mechanics, crystal plasticity, vibration, and fluid-structure interaction. He received his Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 2001.

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Tristan M. Ericson York College of Pennsylvania

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Dr. Tristan Ericson is an Associate Professor at York College of Pennsylvania and has been teaching there since 2013. Prior to this appointment, he was a Visiting Professor at Bucknell University. His teaching interests include solid mechanics, vibrations, materials science, and MATLAB. He advises the YC Racing FormulaSAE team. His technical research interests include vibrations of planetary gear systems, strengthening 3D printed materials, and making things go faster. He enjoys activities that promote STEM fields in local high schools. He received his PhD from Ohio State University in 2012.

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Concept inventories are useful diagnostic tools for courses in which students’ knowledge of the fundamentals covered by a course are tested without requiring them to perform calculations. Thus, the students’ understanding of the main concepts can be tested without worry regarding computational errors. These inventories are often used as assessment tools (both for ABET purposes and internally for course improvement) because they can illustrate which topics students struggle with and whether improvement in a topic was evident throughout the course. They also serve to reinforce fundamental principles and conceptual understanding in a discipline that tends to overemphasize the ability to perform numerical calculation. Concept inventories exist for many subjects, including Physics, Statics, Thermodynamics, and Dynamics. At least two groups had begun work on concept inventories for Mechanics of Materials which now appears to have been abandoned. Thus, the authors developed their own concept inventory for use with a Mechanics of Materials course.

This concept inventory was administered to students in the Strength of Materials course at XXX twice in the Spring 2020 semester – once as a pretest in the first week of the course, and then again as a post-test in the last week of the course. Students earned small course credit for completing the inventories regardless of how they scored. The results of these tests were used for analyses of student understanding as well as the performance of the concept test itself. We examined the performance of students on the post-test relative to the pretest and correlated results of both tests to course grades. We also determined diagnostic information about the test questions, such as difficulty index and discrimination index, to find whether the questions on the test were doing the job we wished them to do.

Overall, we found that the student performance improved between the pretest and the post-test. Also, we found a weak positive correlation between student course percentage grade and the post-test performance. Most test questions had difficulty values in an acceptable range; we saw more questions which may have been too hard than those which may have been too easy. Over 80% of the questions were found to have discrimination index values over 0.2, meaning that the questions were able to differentiate between students performing well and students who performed poorly. This instrument seems to provide a foundation for future improvements.

Kuchnicki, S. N., & Ericson, T. M. (2021, July), Development of a New Concept Inventory for Mechanics of Materials Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36960

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