(206b) Creation of Reliable Instruments for Assessment of Conceptual Understanding in Heat Transfer and Thermodynamics

Authors: 
Vigeant, M. A. S., Bucknell University
Prince, M., Bucknell University
Nottis, K., Bucknell University


A consistent challenge in rigorous research in engineering education research is the availability of valid and reliable instruments with which to document student gains. This presented a significant obstacle to the course of our NSF-funded work to enhance student conceptual learning in chemical engineering Heat Transfer and Thermodynamics through creation and implementation of inquiry-based activities. Because the goal of our work is to enhance students' conceptual understanding in these areas, a concept inventory is the optimal assessment tool. Concept inventories are multiple choice tests where questions focus on conceptual rather than mathematical understanding and where the ?wrong? answers are designed to appeal to commonly held misconceptions. While there were concept inventories in Heat Transfer and Thermodynamics under development, there were none that both 1) addressed the list of concepts under study and 2) had been tested for sufficient reliability and validity.

In this paper, we describe the development and testing of our concept inventories. In Heat Transfer, the concepts of Temperature vs. Energy, Temperature vs. ?Feeling? Hot Rate vs. Amount, Radiation. The test was piloted with 202 engineering students at a variety of institutions as a pre- and post- test for relevant courses, and was found to have a split-half reliability of 0.84 and a KR20 of 0.86 for the post-test, both of which indicate a sufficiently high reliability for a research instrument. In the field of Thermodynamics, the concept inventory addresses Entropy, Reversibility, Equilibrium vs. Steady State, Internal Energy vs. Enthalpy, and Reaction Rate vs. Reaction Equilibrium. This test was piloted with 114 students at several institutions, and found to have a split-half reliability of 0.74 and a KR20 of 0.76 on the post- test, which again indicates a sufficiently high reliability for research work.

Future work includes the use of these concept inventories to assess student conceptual gains after use of our inquiry-based activities. We invite instructors in relevant courses to contact us if you wish to be part of the study.