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Understanding Potential Misconceptions Shared Between Instructors and Students in Fundamental Electric Circuits

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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

Improvements in ECE Circuit Analysis

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Alejandro H. Espera Jr. Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University Orcid 16x16

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Alejandro is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech and is a simultaneous graduate student in M.A. in Data Analytics and Applied Statistics program at the same institution. He is also an assistant professor with the Electronics Engineering Department at the Ateneo de Davao University, Philippines. He has B.S. and M.S degrees in Electronics Engineering from Ateneo de Davao University and Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines, respectively. He has done and published research in the areas of additive manufacturing and the design of optimized electronic systems. His current research interests include instructional design and innovations in teaching electrical and electronics engineering core courses.

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Nicole P. Pitterson Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University Orcid 16x16

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Nicole is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Prior to joining VT, Dr. Pitterson was a postdoctoral scholar at Oregon State University. She holds a PhD in Engineering Education from Purdue University and other degrees in Manufacturing Engineering from Western Illinois University and a B.Sc. in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Technology, Jamaica. Her research interests are exploring students' disciplinary identity through engagement with knowledge, curriculum design, assessment and evaluation and teaching for conceptual understanding.

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René Alexander Soto-Pérez Purdue University, West Lafayette

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René Alexander Soto-Pérez received the B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota, Colombia, in 1997 and 2013, respectively. He is currently an Assistant Professor with the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Universidad Nacional de Colombia. He has experience in the field of electrical machines and distribution’s systems. Currently, René is a Ph.D. student at Purdue University in the program of Engineering Education. His research interests include assessing students understanding of difficult concepts as well as the effectiveness of pedagogical approaches.

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There has been a need to innovate instructors’ ways of capturing and assessing student learning in order to align their teaching strategies with the learners’ current understanding. The early detection of errors in knowledge among students allows the instructors to be dynamic and proactive in strategizing instruction. However, instructors presume that their own mental models are error-free. These presumptions need systematic validation to ensure that misconceptions do not propagate from learner to learner and to provide mutual benefit to both instructors and students as main participants of the learning process. The purpose of this pilot study is to examine prior and current knowledge in basic electric circuit concepts and to investigate the potential existence of shared misconceptions among teaching faculty and students. A 20-item concept inventory was designed and used in this study to methodically identify errors in fundamental electric circuit concepts as a means to inform instruction. This study addresses the following questions, “What misconceptions in fundamental electric circuits are potentially present in both instructors and students? How are these potential misconceptions shared between instructors and students?” The concept test that we developed was administered via Qualtrics, and semi-structured interviews were conducted among instructor and undergraduate student participants in electrical and electronics engineering departments. This study used thematic and comparative analyses to explain intersections and differences in responses among instructors and students through the concept instrument used. Results highlight how misconceptions associated with basic electric circuit concepts described in previous literature are manifested in the thought processes of instructors and students, such as the operation of a first-order circuit involving time constant, capacitor and inductor operations, and individual behaviors of electric devices in an AC circuit in steady-state conditions. This work has implications for educators, curriculum designers, and researchers who seek to improve student learning of difficult engineering concepts. The outcomes of this study will provide the opportunity for research to interrogate why these misconceptions continue to exist and how we can use instructional practices and curriculum design methodologies to uncover and repair these misconceptions.

Espera, A. H., & Pitterson, N. P., & Soto-Pérez, R. A. (2020, June), Understanding Potential Misconceptions Shared Between Instructors and Students in Fundamental Electric Circuits Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35425

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