June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Educational Research and Methods
12.587.1 - 12.587.9
Effects of Sex and Ethnicity on Performance on the Materials Concept Inventory
This paper describes results on using the Materials Concept Inventory in an introductory materials course. The validity of the MCI is confirmed by correlation with student course grades and student self-assessment of understanding. However, the reliability of the instrument is low, and content analysis suggests that the low reliability is related to the inclusion of a large number of concepts within the instrument. Results by sexi show that women score lower than men, despite no difference in academic ability. Results for differences by ethnicity are ambiguous due to the low numbers of students in some of the groups. Overall, the results highlight the importance of developing concept inventories by maintaining a narrow focus on a specific area of conceptual understanding within a particular field. The results also point to the potential role that the context of the items has on performance, although considerably more work is needed in this area.
There continues to be considerable interest within engineering education to develop innovative modes of teaching that will improve student outcomes across a wide range of learning objectives.1 In order to appropriately assess the efficacy of these techniques a variety of assessment techniques are needed. For assessment of content knowledge, concept inventories provide a means to assess knowledge in specific content domains. The first concept inventory developed was the Force Concept Inventory, and since then concept inventories have been developed for statics,2 strength of materials,3 engineering mechanics,4 electrical circuits,4 thermal and transport sciences,5 and materials.6,7 As the name implies, concept inventories are designed to test for fundamental concepts within a domain, as opposed to memorized facts. Typically concept inventories are developed by identifying misconceptions held by students, and constructing distracter items based upon these misconceptions.
Although concept inventories are generally considered to be neutral towards sub-populations (e.g. men vs. women), there is some evidence that this is not true. A persistent bias by sex has been found for the Force Concept Inventory, with men scoring higher than women even when controlling for educational background.8,9 McCullough has investigated this effect further by creating a modified version of the Force Concept Inventory in which items with stereotypically male-oriented contexts (sports, rockets, etc.) were replaced with stereotypically female-oriented contexts (babies, kitchens, etc.).10 Although there were differences in both men’s and women’s responses on the revised instrument, the pattern of responses did not provide a clear indication of what the reason for the changes might be. Thus, while it is clear that the Force Concept Inventory has a sex bias, the exact nature of that bias has not been identified.
This paper provides some preliminary data from a larger study on the use of different pedagogies in the introductory materials course within the engineering curriculum. This paper focuses on the reliability and validity of the Materials Concept Inventory, and especially differences in performance by sex and ethnicity. The data comes from two sections of the course, taught by the
Douglas, E. (2007, June), Effects Of Sex And Ethnicity On Performance On The Materials Concept Inventory Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/1868
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