Asee peer logo

Development of an Alternative Statics Concept Inventory Usable as a Pretest

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Measuring Learning in Statics & Dynamics

Tagged Division


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Christopher Papadopoulos University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus

visit author page

Christopher Papadopoulos is an associate professor in the department of general engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (UPRM). He earned B.S. degrees in civil engineering and mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University (1993) and a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics at Cornell University (1999). Prior to coming to UPRM, Papadopoulos served on the faculty in the department of civil engineering and mechanics at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Papadopoulos has diverse research and teaching interests in structural mechanics, biomechanics, appropriate technology, engineering ethics, and engineering education. He is PI of two NSF-sponsored research projects and is co-author of Lying by Approximation: The Truth about Finite Element Analysis. Papadopoulos is currently Chair of the ASEE Mechanics Division and serves on numerous committees at UPRM that relate to undergraduate and graduate education.

visit author page


Aidsa I. Santiago-Roman University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus

visit author page

Aidsa I. Santiago-Román is an Associated Professor in the General Engineering Department at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus (UPRM). Dr. Santiago earned a BA and MS in Industrial Engineering from UPRM and Ph.D in Engineering Education from Purdue University. Before attending Purdue University, she has been an engineering instructor for about 10 years. Her primary research interests are investigating students’ understanding of difficult concepts in engineering science, especially for underrepresented populations and she also works in the implementation of the Outcome-Based Design framework to course design.

visit author page


Manuel Jose Perez-Vargas University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus

visit author page

Manuel J Perez Vargas is an aspiring Mechanical Engineer, an educator and an author. Born July 28th, 1993, Perez has always had a passion for helping others achieve their goals. He is known for his gifted way of teaching and making others feel confident that they can do anything they set their minds to. His passion for teaching led him to an incredible opportunity with one of his professors, Christopher Papadopoulos. On January 2013, Perez became an Engineering Mechanics: Statics Teaching Assistant at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus. Working with his fellows students helped him learn new and better ways for students to grasp the knowledge he was trying to share. Shortly after, he was given the opportunity to explore aspects of another one of his passions, engineering. On December 2013, Perez became a Manufacturing Co-op at Johnson and Johnson: Neutrogena in Los Angeles, California. The programs he implemented not only reduced operation costs but they were as best practices. During his time in Johnson & Johnson, he participated in community services with LA’s BEST and many other programs. When he returned, Perez joined an NSF sponsored Undergraduate Research as a Research Assistant in collaboration with one of his professors. Currently, Perez is pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus. He continues to be a Teaching Assistant for not one, but two courses. He is also involved in associations like ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) and IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers).

visit author page


Genock Portela-Gauthier University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus

visit author page

Genock Portela is Associate Professor and former Associate Director in the Department of General Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez. He earned a Ph.D. degree in civil engineering at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez (2004). Portela has primary research and teaching interests in structural mechanics, mostly oriented to bridge, earthquake, and wind engineering. In the General Engineering Department at UPRM, Portela serves as President of the Planning and Development Committee and member of the Engineering Mechanics Committee.

visit author page


Wadson C Phanord University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez.

visit author page

My name is Wadson C Phanord, I'm a senior Civil Engineering student at the University of Puerto Rico, at Mayaguez campus. I'm a teaching assistant for Statics Engineering. I conduct research investigation in the area of Civil and Environmental Engineering, my current research focuses on how to develop a small Biosand Water Filter using Bamboo.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Concept inventories (CI’s) are now an established means to measure students’ qualitative understanding of basic concepts and principles. In particular, CI’s consist of multiple choice questions with one correct answer and several “distractors” that reflect common preconceptions or misconceptions. A CI can be used to assess both individual student learning gains and effectiveness of pedagogical strategies, particularly by measuring differences I performance as a pre-test (before instructional intervention) and post-test (after instructional intervention). Approximately a dozen CI’s have been deployed in various branches of engineering education, including three that relate directly to mechanics topics; several other CI’s exist in sciences.

The Concept Assessment Tool for Statics (CATS), previously known as the Statics Concept Inventory, is a particularly well developed and widely deployed CI, and has been tested for reliability and validity. The CATS consists of 27 questions, 3 questions each from 9 topic areas of statics/basic mechanics. The authors have been using the CATS at their local institution for six years as a standard post-evaluation in Statics.

A limitation of the CATS is that it does not work well as a pre-test. Historical data shows that when administered to students prior to taking a statics class, the results typically match what would be obtained by random guessing, and in particular, incorrect responses unlikely to identify strongly held pre-conceived ideas. The authors suspect that a principal reason for this limitation is that many of the questions contain some technical topics or symbols that require some “book knowledge” and which do not access “common, untrained intuition”.

To address this limitation the authors developed and deployed an alternative statics concept inventory that is designed to be useful as a pre-test, with a goal to identify strongly held misconceptions among students who enter statics. In its present form the alternative SCI consists of 10 questions that span many of the traditional topics taught in Statics. The questions present students with common situations for which they could be expected to form an intuitive judgement without any formal training. The questions do not use technical jargon or symbols, although words such as “friction” and “torque”, and symbols such as force arrows, do appear because it is believed that most students have some familiarity of these ideas prior to entering statics.

This work is classified as “work in progress” because the tool was developed and deployed for the first time in August-September of 2015; it will be given again as a post-test in November-December 2015. No formal development process (such as a Delphi process) was used to create the tool, but the questions do respond to misconceptions that were observed repeatedly in other mechanics education research and teaching activities performed by the authors over the last several years. By the final writing of this paper, it is expected that one semester of pre-test and post-test data comprising perhaps 200 students will be available to show pre-test/post-test gains and correlations with final grades. In fact, based on the pre-test results already collected, the authors are confident that the tool has already served to identify three or four strongly held misconceptions that can be directly addressed by instructors. However, more sophisticated tests for reliability and validity are unlikely to be performed within this time. Also, it is anticipated that during the next year additional collaborators will be invited to examine the tool and suggest revisions and/or additional questions.

Papadopoulos, C., & Santiago-Roman, A. I., & Perez-Vargas, M. J., & Portela-Gauthier, G., & Phanord, W. C. (2016, June), Development of an Alternative Statics Concept Inventory Usable as a Pretest Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26816

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015