Electronics Concept Inventory

Principal Developers

Analog and digital electronics are core components of electrical engineering curricula. The project goal is to develop assessment instrument(s) that measure change in the conceptual understanding of electronics by students. Development of the Electronics Concepts Inventory (ECI) began in October 2002. As is the case for several other concept inventories, the concept inventory consists of multiple parts. For the ECI, there will be an ECI-Analog that will focus on analog electronics and an ECI-Digital for digital electronics. During the 2002–03 academic year, developers at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth developed fifty multiple-choice questions in analog electronics. During the summer of 2003, developers created a second set of multiple-choice questions for digital electronics. Both digital and analog parts are being tested during 2004 year.

The ECI exam was initiated at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology by faculty members Marc Herniter, Mario Simoni, Bruce Ferguson, and Dan Moore. The exam that they are developing is designed to assess student understanding of introductory electronics concepts that would typically be covered in the first course of a two-course sequence. Specific topics include semiconductor physics, diode circuits, single transistor amplifier circuits, and device modeling. In addition to the electronics concepts, a small set of questions on basic circuit analysis are included, to help remove ambiguity from the statistics of the exam’s results.

A distinction is made between concepts and problem-solving performance for the purposes of this exam. A concept is a fundamental idea used to understand electronics. Performance is the ability to actually solve problems involving electronics. Calculations, procedures, and definitions do not constitute a concept, but all are involved in problem-solving performance. Mastery of concepts is therefore a necessary but not sufficient condition for mastery of electronics. As such, the ECI exam creators differentiate between this concept exam and a final examination given in a course. Both types of exams are necessary to provide assessment on different aspects of knowledge.

These faculty members have generated a first draft of the 31-question exam. The questions were generated primarily at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology but include suggested questions from faculty members at the University of Arizona. The exam has been used in beta testing on (i) two student focus groups, with which Don Evans from Arizona State University was involved, (ii) several sections of the basic electronics course at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, and (iii) three sections of electronics courses from other universities. The exam is being modified, based on the discussion from the focus groups and the resulting statistics from the beta testing.
In addition, the creators are standardizing the ECI by inviting faculty members from across the country to participate in its development and beta testing. Twelve faculty members, each from a different university, have indicated interest in participating in the development of the exam. Some of these faculty members have already provided significant contributions, while others have just indicated their interest in participating in the development of the exam.

The goal is to compile all of the input from these twelve faculty members and generate a final version of the exam by the end of the summer. The exam will be released for official use in the fall of 2004.

Dean Schmidlin, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, has completed the formulation of the digital electronics concepts inventory test. He gave it to the professor who is teaching digital electronics this semester as his UMassD. Dr. Schmidlin also has a collection of analog electronics problems. He will pull problems from this collection to formulate an analog electronics concepts inventory test. This test will be given spring 2005 to the professor who teaches analog electronics at UMassD.

For details on the ECI and the exams, contact Mario Simoni or Dean Schmidlin. You may access "Concepts to Questions: Creating an Electronics Concept Inventory Exam" (by Simoni, Herniter, and Ferguson) at http://www.foundationcoalition.org/events/news/conferencepapers/2004asee/simoni.pdf.