explained her view that concept inventories are useful as a snapshot of students’ understanding of one or more targeted concepts, and that other assessment methods provide a deeper look at students’ mental models. She agreed that it is important for concept inventories to be aligned with the assessment purpose. Reed-Rhoads expressed the view that widespread dissemination is beneficial as long as the authors of the concept inventories have access to the resulting data so they can improve the instrument.
Kenneth Heller pointed out that the FCI is not about forces and is not a concept inventory. Rather, it is an instrument about misconceptions that is based on the misconception research. Although the instrument is reliable, Heller stressed that it is not a predictor of students’ success in introductory physics. He asked the presenters whether they are trying to replicate the success of the FCI or develop concept inventories that may or may not have the same properties as the FCI. Libarkin and Reed-Rhoads said their respective communities (geosciences and engineering) are trying to do both. Cummings agreed with Heller’s assessment of the FCI and emphasized the importance of being clear about what these instruments measure.
Heidi Schweingruber asked the concept inventory developers to elaborate on the link between concept inventories and instructional change. Cummings responded that the University of Washington Physics Education Research Group gets feedback on strategies that work and do not work to foster conceptual understanding and uses that feedback to develop curriculum materials. The Physics Education Research Group works with professors who adopt the materials to ensure that they have the support they need to implement the materials effectively.
Responding to a question from Jay Labov (National Research Council), Libarkin and Cummings said that concept inventories do not measure whether students will have enough knowledge of science to make informed decisions later in their lives. Cummings added that this gap suggests a need for additional research and instrumentation.