Materials Concept Inventory

A Materials Concept Inventory (MCI) assessment instrument is being developed to measure misconceptions about materials structure, processing, and properties. It will be used to examine student knowledge before and after teaching introductory materials engineering courses that are required by many engineering colleges. Considerable research shows that prior misconceptions are strongly held even in the face of good instruction. A better understanding of "prior knowledge" can help instructors improve instruction in their classes.

The current version of the MCI is a beta version which is being administered this fall to students in larger classes at Texas A&M and Arizona State University. An earlier alpha version was created and tested for subject matter in an introductory materials science and engineering course (see preliminary testing). If you are interested in examining a copy of the MCI or using it to assess the qualitative understanding of your students, please contact one of the principal developers.

Principal Developers

Development Process
To create the test, a literature survey of current assessment tools in science, math, and engineering disciplines was conducted in conjunction with extensive student interactions. Student input consisted of: weekly short-answer, open-ended questions; multiple choice quizzes; and weekly interviews and discussions.

Preliminary Testing
After developing the alpha version of the MCI, it was administered to a summer 2002 session of an introductory materials course of 13 students. At the end of the class it was again administered to the 12 students still in the class. The data from these two tests were then compiled and assessed. Initial exam scores of about 36% correct were 15% higher than a completely random distribution of 21%, and exit exam scores were somewhat higher at 45% correct. The results were compared to assessment criteria from extensive data on the well-tested Force Concepts Inventory (FCI). The gain, g, in conceptual knowledge for the MCI test of 15% was classified as a "low-g"-gain for students in the summer course. FCI assessment methods define "low-g" as a gain of less than 0.3, medium gain as 0.3-0.7, and high gain as 0.7 and greater. FCI assessment data has found that "low-g"-gain, typical of that found in lecture-only courses, can be enhanced by engaging students with active learning methods, which often increases gains to 70% and higher. Although the first MCI results have limited statistics, they suggest that utilizing more active-learning methods in introductory materials engineering courses may increase conceptual knowledge gains.

References for Further Information

  1. Hestenes, David, Malcolm Wells, and Gregg Swackhamer, 1992. Force Concept Inventory. The Physics Teacher, 30 (3), 141–151.
  2. Hestenes, David, and Ibrahim Halloun, 1995. Interpreting the Force Concept Inventory. The Physics Teacher, 33 (8).
  3. Halloun, Ibrahim, and David Hestenes, 1985. The initial knowledge state of college physics students. American Journal of Physics, 53(11), 1043–1055.
  4. Halloun, Ibrahim, and David Hestenes, 1985. Common sense concepts about motion. American Journal of Physics, 53(11), 1056–1065.
  5. Evans, D.L., and David Hestenes, "The Concept of the Concept Inventory Assessment Instrument, Proceedings, 2001 Frontiers in Education Conference, Reno, Nevada, 10–13 October 2001.
  6. Krause, S. J., Decker, J.C., Niska, J., Alford, T. and Griffin, R.B. (2002). "Materials Concept Inventory for Introductory Materials Engineering Courses", Proceedings, National Educators Workshop Update 2002: Standard Experiments in Engineering Materials, Science, and Technology, October 13-16, 2002, San Jose, CA.
  7. Evans, D.L., Midkiff, C., Miller, R., Morgan, J., Krause, S., Martin, J., Notaros, B.M., Rancour, D., and Wage, K. (2002). "Tools for Assessing Conceptual Understanding in the Engineering Sciences", Proceedings, Frontiers in Education Conference, November 6-9, 2002, Boston, MA.
  8. Krause, S. J., Decker, J.C., Niska, J., Alford, T. and Griffin, R. (2003). "Identifying Student Misconceptions in Introductory Materials Engineering Classes", Proceedings, ASEE Annual Conference, Nashville, TN, June 2003.
  9. Krause, S. J., Decker, and Griffin, R.B., "Using a Materials Concept Inventory to Assess Conceptual Gain in Introductory Materials Engineering Courses", Proceedings, Frontiers in Education Conference, November 5-8, 2003, Boulder, CO, USA
  10. Evans, D.L., Gray, D., Krause, S., Martin, J., Midkiff, C., Notaros, B.M., Pavelich, M., Rancour, D., Reed-Rhoads, T., Steif, P., Streveler, R., and Wage, K. (2003). "Progress on Concept Inventory Assessment Tools", Proceedings, Frontiers in Education Conference, November 5-8, 2003, Boulder, CO, USA.
  11. Krause, S., Tasooji, A., and Griffin, R. (2004) "Origins of Misconceptions in a Materials Concept Inventory From Student Focus Groups," Proceedings, ASEE Annual Conference


Web Resources

Jordan, W., Cardenas, H, and O'Neal, C. B., (2005). Using a Materials Concept Inventory to Assess an Introductory Materials Class: Potential and Problems. Proceedings, ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition

Abstract: In every engineering course there is a concern about how much the students are actually learning. The physics community has addressed this through the development of an assessment instrument called the Force Concept Inventory. More recently this has been expanded to the development of Engineering Concept Inventories. Universities affiliated with the N.S.F. sponsored Foundation Coalition have developed a number of these inventories.

A Materials Concept Inventory has been developed by faculty from Arizona State University and Texas A & M University. They have reported on their work at the 2003 and 2004 A.S.E.E. Annual Conferences1,2. They have encouraged further refinement of the inventory as a way to help measure the effectiveness of introductory materials
engineering courses. A Beta version of this inventory has been graciously provided to Louisiana Tech University.

This inventory has been used in seven different sections of our introductory materials engineering course taught during the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 school years. Approximately 210 students have taken the inventory at the beginning and end of the course. The use of this assessment instrument in our course has provided insight into
what is being taught effectively and what areas need improvement. There was a reasonably good correlation between student performance on the inventory post test and the student grade in the course.