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A three-year longitudinal textual analysis investigation of students' conceptual understanding: Lessons learnt and implications for teaching

27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016

Abstract: Context: Concept inventories are specific tests, designed to elicit misunderstandings or misconceptions. They are a set of multiple-choice questions (MCQs), designed to include the correct option, as well several distractors (Libarkin, 2008). One attractive advantage of the ease of scoring concept inventories, is their MCQ format. However, this same format does not detect whether students arrived at their correct answers by pure guessing. By adding a space for students to add a textual justification (Goncher, Jayalath and Boles, 2016), their answers can be checked to ensure that the concepts are correctly understood.

Purpose: The purpose of this research is to address the following research questions:

1. What are the similarities and differences observed in students' conceptual understanding scores, and persistent misconceptions?

2. How can textual analysis help discover the links between students' scores on conceptual understanding tests, their confidence, and possible teaching strategies?

Approach: There are 2 Signals and Systems Concepts Inventories, one for the continuous domain and one for the discrete (Wage, 2005). These two exams were run at both the beginning, and the end of semester, over a period of three years. Data collected from these contains a multiple choice response, and textual explanation for each for the 15 questions used in this study. This data was analysed using Leximancer (textual analysis program) and MATLAB to extract concepts from these responses, and links between the concepts and students' misconceptions were able to be identified.

Results: Comparing the tests taken over several years, trends were analysed and compared. Since this has been run over multiple years and some actions were taken to address some problem areas and continuously occurring problem areas were identified. Rates of guessing in particular topic areas were also analysed and examined.

Conclusions: From this study, the concepts causing persistent difficulties to students were explored. Several persistent misconceptions were identified over the 3 years, both with low correct rates, and high guessing rates. The added textual component to the usual multiple choice response made this inferences possible.

To cite this article: Cunningham-Nelson, Samuel; Goncher, Andrea and Boles, Wageeh. A three-year longitudinal textual analysis investigation of students' conceptual understanding: Lessons learnt and implications for teaching [online]. In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 195-203. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=679636070868442;res=IELENG> ISBN: 9780994152039. [cited 23 Jun 17].

Personal Author: Cunningham-Nelson, Samuel; Goncher, Andrea; Boles, Wageeh; Source: In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 195-203. DOI: Document Type: Conference Paper ISBN: 9780994152039 Subject: Engineering students; Engineering--Study and teaching; Multiple-choice examinations; Questions and answers; Teaching--Methodology; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) Queensland University of Technology, email: samuel.cunninghamnelson@qut.edu.au
(2) Charles Sturt University
(3) Queensland University of Technology

Database: Engineering Collection