B. Self1, T. Reed-Rhoads2, P.K. Imbrie2

1California Polytechnic State University (UNITED STATES)
2Purdue University (UNITED STATES)
To produce engineering graduates with “adaptive expertise” and strong conceptual understanding, we must first address a growing observation among engineering faculty — a surprising number of students lack sufficient conceptual understanding of fundamental engineering mechanics even after successfully completing courses in which these concepts are taught. Although students can often perform algorithmic substitution and solve back-of-the-book homework style problems, studies have shown that traditional forms of instruction result in minor improvements in student conceptual understanding and qualitative reasoning. Additionally, conventional evaluation approaches typically do not assess conceptual fluency within a particular subject. One of the first efforts to address this deficiency was the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), developed in the mid 1980s.

Motivated by the success of the FCI, in the early 2000s the Foundation Coalition spearheaded the development of 14 initial engineering CIs in curriculum areas most common in fundamental engineering courses. These CIs reached various stages of development, but unfortunately many of them ended up being under-utilized and unsupported by their developers. It was often difficult for potential users to locate concept inventories of interest, and data were rarely collected on a large-scale basis in order to perform reliability analyses or to make improvements on the instrument.
More recently, a virtual community of CI developers, researchers, faculty, and students has been created. The ciHUB is an international collaborative effort to support the continued development, refinement, analysis, and application of multiple CI instruments and to promote widespread usage of the inventories. The project has hosted two CI workshops that brought together researchers, users, and developers to discuss conceptual understanding and assessment.

One beneficiary of the ciHUB has been the Dynamics Concept Inventory (DCI). The beginning of the DCI effort was strong, and the team of volunteers designed a version of the inventory that was validated and disseminated to a wide variety of users. Unfortunately, we had no way to collect assessment data from those who deployed the tool, and the number of professors utilizing the instrument declined as dissemination efforts stalled. The ciHUB has revitalized the team, and a statistician from the ciHUB project has performed reliability and factor analysis on previously collected data. More importantly, the DCI team can now simply refer potential users to the ciHUB website. This drastically reduces the time required to maintain the CI, and also allows automatic collection of response data. As more professors use the ciHUB site and deploy the DCI, we will be able to collect additional data and make additional improvements to the concept inventory.