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Identifying Student Misconceptions In Introductory Materials Engineering Classes

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

K-20 Activities in Materials Science

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.648.1 - 8.648.8



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Paper Authors

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Stephen Krause

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

Identifying Student Misconceptions in Introductory Materials Engineering Classes

Stephen Krause, J. Chris Decker, Justin Niska, Terry Alford Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Arizona State University/ Richard Griffin Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University


Numerous student misconceptions in an introductory materials engineering class have been identified in order to create a Materials Concept Inventory (MCI) to test for the level of conceptual knowledge of the subject matter before and after the course. The misconceptions have been utilized as question responses, or “distracters”, in the multiple-choice MCI test. They have been generated from a literature survey of assessment research in science and engineering in conjunction with extensive student interactions. Student input consisted of: weekly short- answer, open-ended questions; multiple-choice quizzes; and weekly interviews and discussions. In a simplified way, the questions tied fundamental concepts in primary topical areas of atomic structure and bonding, band structure, crystal geometry, defects, microstructure, and phase diagrams to the properties of materials in the families of metals, polymers, ceramics, and semiconductors. An early version of the MCI test was given to students in introductory materials courses at Arizona State University (ASU) and Texas A&M University (TAMU). Results showed conceptual knowledge gains between 15% and 37% between course pre-test and post- test scores. Lower scores, specified as less than 30% gain by Force Concept Inventory work, are typical of traditionally delivered, lecture-base instruction. Scores from 30% to 60% are moderate gains and are often evidenced in courses using active learning methods. Early results of the MCI showed differences between ASU and TAMU on some questions. It appears that they may be due to curricular and course content differences at the two schools.


Over the last two decades new theories of learning and associated methods of teaching have been emerging in the technical disciplines. In engineering education there have been a number of innovations in teaching such as internet courses, virtual experiments, computer classrooms, and team based active learning. However, development and use of well-accepted tools for assessment has lagged behind the innovations. The physics community has been using a well-regarded tool known as the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) created by Hestenes,2, and tested broadly by Hake3 for students in high school and college physics classes. The FCI questionnaire utilizes a series of multiple-choice questions based on qualitative, concept-oriented problems on a particular topic. It measures deep understanding and conceptual knowledge of a topic rather than

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Krause, S. (2003, June), Identifying Student Misconceptions In Introductory Materials Engineering Classes Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12519

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