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Systematic Integration Of Concept Inventories In Mechanical Engineering

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Improving ME education: Broad Topics

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1186.1 - 11.1186.12



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Paper Authors


Daria Kotys-Schwartz University of Colorado-Boulder

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DARIA KOTYS-SCHWARTZ is a doctoral candidate and instructor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering at The Ohio State University. Her research interests include polymer processing, development of student assessment measures, gender disparity in engineering and innovative instructional methodology.

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Derek Reamon University of Colorado

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DEREK REAMON is a senior instructor of mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he has taught Circuits and Electronics, Mechatronics, Component Design and the interdisciplinary First-Year Engineering Projects. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. His foremost research interests include assessment of student learning, curriculum development and robotic controls.

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Lawrence Carlson University of Colorado-Boulder

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LAWRENCE E. CARLSON is a founding co-director of the Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory and Program, as well as professor of mechanical engineering. He received his M.S. and D.Eng. degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. His primary educational passion is real-world design, and he spent his last sabbatical leave at IDEO in Palo Alto, CA, sharpening some rusty design tools.

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

Systematic Integration of Concept Inventories In Mechanical Engineering


Gauging student knowledge accurately is a complex task that has always challenged educators. The commonly employed metrics (homework, quizzes and exams) serve as indicators of student performance for instructors — yet are these instruments truly assessing student knowledge gains? Concept inventories have recently emerged as tools for assessing students’ understanding of the basic concepts upon which technical education is based. Initially developed to test learning of basic physics concepts, concept inventories have subsequently been developed and validated for a variety of engineering subjects. By undergoing a rigorous process of validation, engineering concept inventories can provide meaningful primary assessment throughout a curriculum. This, in turn, allows a methodical evaluation of the effectiveness of various teaching methods, enabling subsequent improvements in learning. However, concept inventories have not been applied in a systematic way to engineering curricula. This paper focuses on the systematic integration of eight previously developed and disparate concept inventories, utilized to assess the major portion of a mechanical engineering undergraduate curriculum. We present the preliminary results, and discuss the forthcoming efforts to develop and validate two additional concept inventories that will provide a full assessment package for the core mechanical engineering undergraduate curriculum.


In engineering, faculty have been extensively trained in technical theory, but typically not in pedagogical skills or educational research endeavors that focus on student learning. Additionally, typical university reward structures do not encourage such a focus. As a result, many engineering faculty members resort to personal educational experiences as the primary resource for their teaching philosophy. In other words, they tend to teach the same way they were taught.

As engineering educators, we each have our own perception of the content knowledge that students gain in the classroom. However, it is often astonishing for an instructor to discover the difference between what students are actually learning and what an instructor perceives they are learning. It can be an extremely disheartening experience for an instructor to realize that at the end of term students still do not comprehend conceptual topics that were proficiently taught. It is essential for educators to acknowledge that students bring to the classroom experiences, attitudes and perceptions that can greatly influence classroom performance, and instructional modifications may be needed to address these student issues. The compelling questions remain: what misconceptions do students bring into the classroom, and what knowledge and understanding do they depart the course with?

Throughout the United States, engineering programs are faced with the daunting task of developing specific methods and assessment tools that meet the requirements of the current ABET Engineering Criteria. The intent of these recently established ABET criteria is that

Kotys-Schwartz, D., & Reamon, D., & Carlson, L. (2006, June), Systematic Integration Of Concept Inventories In Mechanical Engineering Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--737

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