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Origins Of Misconceptions In A Materials Concept Inventory

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Materials Science for Nonmajors

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.974.1 - 9.974.8

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Paper Authors

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Stephen Krause

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Origins of Misconceptions in a Materials Concept Inventory From Student Focus Groups

Stephen Krause, Amaneh Tasooji and Richard Griffin* Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, E-mail: *Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station TX 77843, E-mail:


A Materials Concept Inventory (MCI) that measures conceptual change in introductory materials engineering classes uses student misconceptions as question responses, or “distracters”, in the multiple-choice MCI test. In order to understand the origin of the misconceptions, selected sets of questions on particular topics from the MCI were discussed and evaluated with student focus groups. The groups were composed of six to ten students who met for two hours at the beginning of a semester with two “new” groups that had not taken the introductory materials course and two “prior” groups of students that had taken the course. Two examples of questions from one of the sets of topics that were discussed are presented from two areas of the thermal properties of metals. It was found that the logic and rationale for selection of given answers which were misconceptions arose from a variety of sources. These included personal observation, prior teaching, and television shows, as well as other sources. Some discussions led to suggestions of possible interventions for improving student learning and conceptual knowledge of a topic. Implications of the results and suggestions for possible improvements in teaching of introductory materials classes are discussed. INTRODUCTION In the past few years a number of engineering-science concept inventories (ESCIs) have been under development under the sponsorship of the NSF Foundation Coalition1. An ESCI is intended to provide a benchmark of conceptual knowledge for the general subject areas of a given course. An ESCI can then be used to assess the effectiveness of innovations used in the delivery of the course. This is particularly relevant since new theories of teaching and learning in engineering education have been emerging over the last decade. Such innovations include Internet courses, virtual experiments, computer classrooms, and team-based active learning.

The ESCI approach parallels that which the general physics community has been using which is called the Force Concept Inventory (FCI). It was created by Hestenes et al.2, 3 and tested broadly by Hake4 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 Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Krause, S. (2004, June), Origins Of Misconceptions In A Materials Concept Inventory Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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