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Psychometric Analysis Of A Statics Concept Inventory And Its Use As A Formative Assessment Tool

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Engineering Education Research and Assessment II

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1043.1 - 10.1043.11



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Paper Authors

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Paul Steif

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


Paul S. Steif

Department of Mechanical Engineering Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213


A multiple choice test, the Statics Concept Inventory, is used to measure conceptual progress of students in Statics. This paper reports on detailed comparisons of the results of this test to student performance on class examinations. Reasonably strong correlations are found between concept-specific sub-scores in the inventory and scores on related types of examination problems or solution errors involving similar concepts. With these findings we set the stage for using the inventory for formative assessment; that is, feeding back to students their scores on the inventory so as to point them to specific areas where improvement is necessary. A pilot effort to have a session that provides such remedial instruction is also described.


Effective assessment is known to be key to improving learning outcomes1,2. For many engineering subjects, one hopes students will learn to transfer their newly gained knowledge to new situations, which then requires a deep understanding of the material3. This has been taken to mean conceptual understanding. One approach to assessing conceptual understanding, with its origins in the science education community, is the Force Concept Inventory4. The approach of concept inventories has been extended by the engineering education community to a variety of engineering subjects5.

The present paper extends previous work by the author to articulate concepts in Engineering Statics6 and then to develop an assessment instrument to measure conceptual understanding in this subject7-8. Here we begin to address the question of how such an inventory could be used to improve learning. In particular, we explore whether performance on a concept inventory can be correlated with other measures of performance in the respective course. We also begin to look at how one might judge the impact of feeding back to students details of their individual performance on the inventory.

Background on Statics Concept Inventory and Current Status

We explain very briefly here the underpinnings of the Statics Concept Inventory. More details on the conceptual background, typical errors, and the inventory itself are given elsewhere6-8. The conceptual framework, devised to be particularly relevant to problems with multiple, interconnected bodies, consists of the following four concept clusters:

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Steif, P. (2005, June), Psychometric Analysis Of A Statics Concept Inventory And Its Use As A Formative Assessment Tool Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15324

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