Asee peer logo

Increasing Students’ Conceptual Understanding of AC Circuits: An Application of Licht’s Model

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Innovations in Electrical Engineering Courses

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.738.1 - 24.738.9



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Nicole P. Pitterson Purdue University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

I am currently a second-year Ph.D. student in the engineering education department at Purdue University. My highest level of education so far is an M.Sc. in manufacturing engineering, which I attained at Western Illinois University. My research interest is eliciting conceptual understanding of AC circuit concepts using active learning strategies.

visit author page


Ruth A. Streveler Purdue University

visit author page

Ruth A. Streveler is an associate professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Dr. Streveler has been the principal or co-principal investigator of 10 grants funded by the National Science Foundation. She has published articles in the Journal of Engineering Education and the International Journal of Engineering Education, and has contributed to the Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research. She has presented workshops to over 500 engineering faculty on four continents. Dr. Streveler’s primary research interests are investigating students’ understanding of difficult concepts in engineering science and helping engineering faculty conduct rigorous research in engineering education.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Electrical and Computer Engineering DivisionTopic: “Increasing students’ conceptual understanding of AC circuits: An application of Licht’smodel”The complexity of AC circuit concepts warrants the use of an instructional method that presentsthe concept in an iterative manner such that students come to appreciate the nature of alternatingcurrent while learning about the function of components in the circuit and their own operation. Itis the complex nature of alternating current and student’s lack of pre-conceived notions aboutelectricity that makes this task immensely difficult. This stems from students’ inability to linkAC circuit phenomena to everyday practices or experiences. Due to the nature of their learningcompounded by how they view the learning of scientific concepts, students will have a tendencyto rely heavily on concrete tasks and concepts which the abstract nature of AC circuits does noteasily comply with. As a result, improper instructional approaches to complex concepts such asAC circuits causes deeply rooted misconceptions when students attempt to assimilate the newknowledge of AC circuits with their current DC circuits framework. In order to increase studentsunderstanding of AC concepts, a new approach to instruction and course delivery is required inwhich AC circuits are taught as an entirely new concept while appealing to students’ inductiveand deductive reasoning ability. Using the five step model suggested by Licht (1991) whichincludes 1) using a phenomenological overview, 2) a macroscopic qualitative approach 3) amicroscopic approach 4) a macroscopic quantitative approach 5) a microscopic qualitativeapproach, this paper suggests the redesign on electrical courses aimed at increasing students’conceptual understanding about AC circuits. This work will not only provide information on aholistic approach to delivering and teaching AC circuit concepts but will also provide analternative framework that can be applied to teaching other complex scientific concepts.Licht, P. (1991). Teaching electrical energy, voltage and current: an alternative approach.Journal of Physics Education, 28, 272 - 277.

Pitterson, N. P., & Streveler, R. A. (2014, June), Increasing Students’ Conceptual Understanding of AC Circuits: An Application of Licht’s Model Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20630

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: © 2014 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