Assessment of Students’ Conceptual Understanding and Their Misconceptions
A tool is available for instructors assessing student understanding of Newtonian concepts on the Force Concept Inventory (FCI). The tool uses an Excel spreadsheet application to create a simple matrix that identifies the percentage of students that who select each possible pre-/post-test answer combination on each question of the FCI. For those students that selected the wrong answer to a question on both of the pre-/post-tests, transition matrices can determine whether they are moving toward a “better” wrong answer. Also, it determines changes in students’ understanding of concepts and common misconceptions. The results provide insight into the development of understanding, a process of gradually deepening ideas and working through misconceptions, rather than a bold leap from complete non-understanding to full understanding. As a tool, the transition matrices help instructors visualize their students’ development (even if just small steps) as well as make differentiated, targeted instructional interventions. The authors’ hope is that feedback from the tool will allow instructors to close the loop on assessment and tailor instruction in an informed way based on incorporating more of the information provided by the FCI.
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