Origins of misconceptions in a materials concept inventory from student focus groups

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Conference Proceeding

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ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings


A Materials Concept Inventory (MCI) that measures conceptual change in introductory materials engineering classes uses student misconceptions as question responses, or "distracters", in the multiple-choice MCI test. In order to understand the origin of the misconceptions, selected sets of questions on particular topics from the MCI were discussed and evaluated with student focus groups. The groups were composed of six to ten students who met for two hours at the beginning of a semester with two "new" groups that had not taken the introductory materials course and two "prior" groups of students that had taken the course. Two examples of questions from one of the sets of topics that were discussed are presented from two areas of the thermal properties of metals. It was found that the logic and rationale for selection of given answers which were misconceptions arose from a variety of sources. These included personal observation, prior teaching, and television shows, as well as other sources. Some discussions led to suggestions of possible interventions for improving student learning and conceptual knowledge of a topic. Implications of the results and suggestions for possible improvements in teaching of introductory materials classes are discussed.

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