New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
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
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