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Using Students-Generated Concept Maps to Assess Students’ Conceptual Understanding in a Foundational Engineering Course

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1684.1 - 26.1684.9



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Paper Authors


Ning Fang Utah State University

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Ning Fang is a Professor in the College of Engineering at Utah State University, USA. He has taught a variety of courses at both graduate and undergraduate levels, such as engineering dynamics, metal machining, and design for manufacturing. His areas of interest include computer-assisted instructional technology, curricular reform in engineering education, the modeling and optimization of manufacturing processes, and lean product design. He earned his PhD, MS, and BS degrees in mechanical engineering and is the author of more than 60 technical papers published in refereed international journals and conference proceedings. He is a Senior Member of the Society for Manufacturing Engineering, a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and a member of the American Society for Engineering Education.

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Using Students-Generated Concept Maps to Assess Students’ Conceptual Understanding in a Foundational Engineering CourseThis paper reports the results of an engineering education project funded by the NSF TUES-Type1 program. One primary goal of the project is to improve student conceptual understanding andcomprehension in a foundational yet difficult undergraduate engineering course – EngineeringDynamics (ED).Nearly all students in mechanical, aerospace, civil, biological, and biomedical engineeringprograms are required to take this course. The course covers a broad spectrum of foundationalconcepts, such as displacement, velocity, acceleration, force, work, energy, impulse, momentum,and vibration. Nonetheless, ED is widely regarded as one of the most difficult courses tosucceed in. In a recent survey, students were asked about their perspectives about ED. Morethan 60% of the students surveyed used phrases, such as “much harder than Statics,” “extremelydifficult,” “very challenging,” and “are afraid of it.” Students often drop out of engineeringbecause they fail this course – the last pre-professional gateway course before entering aprofessional engineering program.Research has shown that conceptual understanding plays a critical role in students’ problem-solving performance. Assessing conceptual understanding is important in order to design themost appropriate pedagogy to improve students’ problem-solving performance. Theconventional way to assess conceptual understanding is to conduct assessment tests (such as theConcept Inventory Test) and/or interviews. In this study, conceptual understanding wereassessed through students-generated concept maps. Guided by active learning andconstructivism theories, students developed their own concept maps after they had learned anengineering dynamics theme (i.e., a chapter in a dynamics textbook). Students-generatedconcept maps were closely examined. This paper presents representative concept mapsgenerated by students who took dynamics in a recent semester. The results show that students-generated concept maps provide a significant amount of information on their understandingand/or misunderstandings of relevant concepts and can be used as a supplemental tool to assessconceptual understanding in this foundational engineering course.

Fang, N. (2015, June), Using Students-Generated Concept Maps to Assess Students’ Conceptual Understanding in a Foundational Engineering Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25020

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