Concept Inventory for Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering Courses: Concept Inventory Development and Testing

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concept inventory, Delphi study, distractors, environmental engineering education, misconceptions, pedagogy

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Fundamentals of environmental engineering (FEE) is a common core component of undergraduate curricula in civil engineering, environmental engineering, and environmental resources engineering, and it is increasingly becoming a core course in other disciplines. Conceptual understanding is an important pedagogical goal in FEE instruction. A strategy used to address this need in other fields is the development and implementation of a concept inventory (CI) test, which is an assessment tool that identifies common misconceptions about key concepts. Here, a Delphi process was used to identify FEE concepts that were deemed fundamental, important, and at the same time, prone to misperceptions by students, including (1) reactor theory, (2) the mass balance equation, (3) biochemical oxygen demand, (4) units of measure, and (5) chemical equilibrium and partitioning. A CI was developed that included incorrect answers, or “distractors,” based on student interviews that identified common FEE misconceptions. The CI was beta tested in FEE courses at six universities. Analysis of psychometric data from beta testing revealed which concepts were most difficult and identified concepts that needed further refinement. Being cognizant of student misconceptions is a prerequisite for faculty who strive to improve students' conceptual understanding of FEE concepts.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Environmental Engineering Science, v. 34, issue 12, p. 895-907