Monday, September 19, 2011

The Impact of Concept Inventories On Physics Education and It’s Relevance For Engineering Education

Some blog followers might be interested in “The Impact of Concept Inventories On Physics Education and It’s Relevance For Engineering Education” [Hake (2011)].

The abstract reads:


I review the:
(a) Before Concept Inventory (BCI) dark ages of post-secondary introductory physics education;

(b) 1985 advent of the first physics CI, the Mechanics Diagnostic (MD) by Halloun & Hestenes (HH);

(c) 1987-90 early research use of the (MD) by HH, Hake, and Crouch & Mazur;

(d) 1992 Force Concept Inventory (FCI), successor to the MD, and the Factor Analysis Debate (1995);

(e) 1995 revision of the FCI by Halloun, Hake, Mosca, and Hestenes;

(f) 1998 meta-analysis of FCI/MD results on 62 introductory physics courses (N = 6542) showing about a two-standard-deviation superiority in average normalized gains for “interactive engagement” over traditional passive-student lecture courses by Hake and subsequent confirmation by about 25 other physics education research studies.

I then indicate:

(a) fourteen hard lessons from the physics education reform effort;

(b) suggestions for the administration and reporting of CI’s;

(c) listings of CI’s, including those for physics and engineering; and comment that:

(d) for physics education the road to reform has been all uphill;

(e) the glacial inertia of the educational system, though not well understood, appears to be typical of the slow Diffusion of Innovations [Rogers (2003)] in human society;

(f) there are at least “Eleven Barriers to Change in Higher Education”;

(g) but, even so, for physics education, Rogers’ “early adopters” of reform have now appeared at Harvard, North Carolina State University, MIT, the Univ. of Colorado, California Polytechnic at San Luis Obispo, and the Univ. of British Columbia, possibly presaging a Rogers “take off” for physics education reform, about two decades ACI (After Concept Inventory).

I conclude that:

(a) CI’s can stimulate reform, but judging from the results in physics it may take about two decades before even early adopters become evident;

(b) there are at least seven reasons why the rate of adoption of reforms may be greater in engineering education than in physics education.

In an Appendix I respond to criticisms of the FCI and the average normalized gain g(ave).


To access the complete 8.7 MB article please click on

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University 24245 Hatteras Street, Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands.


Hake, R.R. 2011. “The Impact of Concept Inventories On Physics Education and It's Relevance For Engineering Education,” invited talk, 8 August, second annual NSF-sponsored “National Meeting on STEM Concept Inventories,” Washington, D.C., online as an 8.7 MB pdf at or as ref. 64 at

No comments: