Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department



Cooper, Melanie M.

Committee Member

Bhattacharyya , Gautam

Committee Member

Dominy , Brian N.

Committee Member

Potvin , Geoffrey D.


This research work relied upon the importance of conceptual understanding to meaningful learning. Conceptual understanding is strongly influenced by students' prior knowledge (1). Many of these ideas pose strong barriers to deeper understanding and are called misconceptions since they are inconsistent or in conflict with generally accepted scientific facts (2). Thus, it is beneficial for instructors to initially elicit students' conceptual understanding in order to properly address student's misconceptions during the learning process. However, results are very dependent on the instrument used to elicit conceptual understanding (3). The most commonly used tools are summative assessments or achievement tests (4). They are multiple choice questions in which the wrong answers are based on the expert's ideas and understanding. Thus, in this study, we will develop concept inventories (CI) questions that are multiple-choice questions that will be used to sample the extent of students' misconceptions (5). The distracters are based on student's misconceptions, rather than instructor's ideas about what students do not understand. That is, the distracters are taken from students' actual responses in interviews, and on-line response to open-ended questions through Ed's Tools (6). Ed's Tools is a web-based program that allows on-line administration of open-ended question and facilitates fast and efficient collection, and analysis of data.
This paper describes the process that is being used to develop and validate a concept inventories instrument for basic and fundamental concepts: atomic structure, covalent bonding and bonding energy. The overall results from the iterative process of the development, administration, re-construction, and re-administration will be presented in this paper. Further, this paper constitutes five phases to seek to validate the robustness of the CI questions. This is the most critical part in the study since CI questions should be rigorously validated multiple choice instruments that will be used to evaluate the nature and quality of student understandings of key concepts or their conceptual understanding (7). Therefore, this paper will discuss the general results obtained from the five phases of the experiment in order to prove the robustness of the developed CI questions.
1. Osborne, R.J.; Wittrock, M.C. Sci. Educ. 1983, 67(4), 489-508.
2. Bodner, G. M. J. Chem. Educ. 1986, 63, 873-878.
3. Holme, T.; Bretz, S.L.: Cooper, M.; Lewis, J.; Paek, P.; Pienta, N.; Stacy, A.; Stevens, R.; Towns, M. Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. 2010, 11, 92-97.
4. (a) Goubeaud, K. J. Sci. Educ. Technol. 2010, 19, 237-245. (b) Smitha, K.C.; Nakhleh, M.B.; Bretz, S.L. Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. 2010, 11, 147-153.
5. Klymkowsky, M.W.; Garvin-Doxas, K. PLoS Biol. 2008, 6(1), 1-7.
7. Smith, J.I.; Tanner, K. CBE Life Sci. Educ. 2010, 9(1), 1-5.

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