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Modification of a Physics Rotational Kinematics Concept Inventory for use with Engineering Dynamics Students

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Concept Inventories in Mechanics

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Paper Authors


Ann Reimers University of Virginia

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Ann Reimers is an Assistant Professor, Academic General Faculty, in the Engineering & Society and the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Departments at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

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Stefen Beeler-Duden University of Virginia

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Stefen Beeler-Duden is a PhD Candidate in Developmental Psychology working in the Psychology Department's Vaish Lab at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va

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Concept inventories are valuable tools for understanding the deeply held physical misconceptions that can undermine a student’s ability to succeed in engineering mechanics classes. As students move from statics onto dynamics, persistent misconceptions in rotational kinematics can become serious learning barriers. The use of a rotational kinematics concept inventory at the start of a dynamics class can inform instruction to improve students’ grasp of the material.

A peer-reviewed, validated assessment tool for measuring students’ conceptual understanding of rotational kinematics is provided for teachers’ use by PhysPort, a website maintained by the American Association of Physics Teachers and supported by the National Science Foundation. This assessment tool was used as a pre-test for more than 100 students in a second-year engineering dynamics class at a mid-sized public university in the United States. Although average measures for the entire test fell within acceptable ranges, the measures for individual questions did not meet accepted thresholds for validation. Fourteen of the 39 questions did not yield an acceptable value of the discrimination index, and eight questions did not meet the accepted minimum for reliability as measured by the point biserial correlation coefficient. Casual conversations with students who took the pre-test indicated that some of their incorrect answers were a function of confusion around nomenclature and graphics used on the test, not a function of lack of knowledge, faulty reasoning or misconceptions.

A study was undertaken to determine how, if at all, a validated assessment tool for measuring students’ conceptual understanding of rotational kinematics in physics classes can be changed to accommodate engineering dynamics students, to address concerns about misinterpretation of graphics and nomenclature. Think aloud interviews are being conducted now with students who successfully completed the dynamics class to observe their interactions with the 14 problematic questions. Their comments will be coded and used in conjunction with the accuracy of their work to make modifications to these questions. Acceptable modifications will not change the skill or knowledge being tested; they will only serve to clarify the information being relayed and the question being asked or allow the student to understand and use graphics more easily. The modified concept inventory will be used as a pre-test for the same dynamics class in the upcoming spring semester and the results will be compared to last spring’s class. Conclusions will be made as to whether or not the test modifications improved the discrimination and reliability measures of the questions that were changed and what further work would be necessary to allow the modified inventory to be posted by PhysPort for distribution to engineering instructors.

Note: This work is in progress but should not be characterized as a work-in-progress submission. Interviews are taking place as this is being written and the second set of evaluation data will be gathered on 1/14/20. If this abstract is accepted, the data will be analyzed and full conclusions drawn in time for a draft submission on 2/3/20.

Reimers, A., & Beeler-Duden, S. (2020, June), Modification of a Physics Rotational Kinematics Concept Inventory for use with Engineering Dynamics Students Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34983

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