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Preliminary Results From The Development Of A Concept Inventory In Thermal And Transport Science

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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

Assessment Issues I

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1003.1 - 9.1003.21



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Paper Authors

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Mary A. Nelson

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Barbara Olds

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Ronald Miller

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Ruth Streveler

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

Session 3230

Preliminary Results from the Development of a Concept Inventory in Thermal and Transport Science Barbara M. Olds1, Ruth A. Streveler, Ronald L. Miller Colorado School of Mines

Mary A. Nelson University of Colorado-Boulder


This paper reports on the progress made in the creation of a concept inventory in thermal and transport science. We discuss the steps taken to create questions for the concept inventory and the results of the alpha testing of our inventory. Next steps in the process – particularly establishing validity and reliability of the instrument – are also discussed.


Engineering faculty members often comment that even students who can correctly solve problems in fluid dynamics, heat transfer, or thermodynamics still mistakenly believe that, for example, heat flows like a substance or that processes stop when they reach equilibrium. These observations are supported by evidence in the literature that suggests that engineering and science students often have fundamental misconceptions about the way that molecular-scale processes differ from observable, macroscopic causal behavior we experience in our daily lives.

To help faculty identify the concepts that their students do not understand and decide which misconceptions are most prevalent, a number of instruments, called concept inventories or CI’s, have been developed in selected fields, most notably the Force Concept Inventory in physics. With NSF support, we are developing a concept inventory for thermal and transport sciences encompassing introductory thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer. At ASEE 2003 we reported on the results of a Delphi study we conducted with approximately 30 engineering faculty experts to reach consensus about the difficulty and importance of fundamental concepts in the thermal and transport sciences. Based on the results of that study, we have identified key concepts and developed the alpha version of our concept inventory. In this paper we will describe the development and testing of the alpha version concept inventory, present our preliminary analysis of the results from the alpha test, and discuss our plans for assuring the validity and reliability of our finished CI.

1 Contact author: Barbara M. Olds, Professor of Liberal Arts and International Studies, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO 80401,, (703) 292-4429.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Nelson, M. A., & Olds, B., & Miller, R., & Streveler, R. (2004, June), Preliminary Results From The Development Of A Concept Inventory In Thermal And Transport Science Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12983

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