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Development Of An Electromagnetics Course Concept Inventory

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Problem Solving and Misconceptions

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.418.1 - 13.418.13



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Paper Authors

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Gerard Rowe University of Auckland


Chris Smaill University of Auckland

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Chris Smaill holds a Ph.D. in engineering education from Curtin University of Technology, Australia, and degrees in physics, mathematics and philosophy from the University of Auckland. For 27 years he taught physics and mathematics at high school level, most recently as Head of Physics at Rangitoto College, New Zealand's largest secondary school. This period also saw him setting and marking national examinations, training high-school teachers, and publishing several physics texts. Since the start of 2002 he has lectured in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Auckland.

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

Development of an Electromagnetics course concept inventory

Abstract The results of the early stages of the development of an electromagnetics concept inventory and of the development of an on-line tool for automatic delivery, marking and analysis of concept inventory tests are presented. Specifically, key electromagnetics concepts and common student misunderstandings are identified, as a precursor to the establishment of the core concepts to be included in the inventory. The use of an on-line tool (OASIS) for automated delivery and analysis of concept inventories is outlined.

Introduction Some seemingly academically well-prepared students struggle with their tertiary studies in the area of electromagnetics. Furthermore, these same students often report excessive study times for their courses and appear unduly stressed. We hypothesise that these students have misunderstood key physics concepts, which underpin later courses in engineering electromagnetics. We propose the development of an electromagnetics course-concept inventory (EMCI), to be used in second- and third-year electromagnetics courses in a four-year electrical engineering degree. This concept inventory (CI) is to be used to provide lecturers with a quantitative measure of the level of class understanding over a range of core concepts. By delivering and analysing pre- and post-tests, such a tool can also facilitate the quantitative assessment of the effectiveness of particular teaching interventions or student engagement strategies. It is also intended that the tool could be used over successive years to reliably quantify entry standards into various courses and to check that standards are being maintained. One of the individuals responsible for popularizing the use of concept inventories in Physics education is Richard Hake, Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. In Hake’s words1 “I see no reason that student learning gains far larger than those in traditional courses could not eventually be achieved and documented in disciplines other than physics, from arts through philosophy to zoology if their practitioners would: 1. reach a consensus on the crucial concepts that all beginning students should be brought to understand 2. undertake the lengthy qualitative and quantitative research required to develop multiple- choice tests of higher-level learning of those concepts, so as to gauge the need for and effects of non-traditional pedagogy, and 3. develop interactive engagement methods suitable to their disciplines.” We are attempting to follow this path for electromagnetics teaching. In this paper we discuss the process used to identify the key concepts around which the questions for an electromagnetics concept inventory are to be written. The routine use of concept inventories as a diagnostic tool would be enhanced if tools were available for automatic delivery and analysis. We further describe the use of a web-based skills practice and summative assessment tool (OASIS) for such a purpose.

Rowe, G., & Smaill, C. (2008, June), Development Of An Electromagnetics Course Concept Inventory Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3194

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