ConMap: Investigating new computer-based approaches to assessing conceptual knowledge structure in physics

2000 2000

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Abstract (summary)

There is a growing consensus among educational researchers that traditional problem-based assessments are not effective tools for diagnosing a student's knowledge state and for guiding pedagogical intervention, and that new tools grounded in the results of cognitive science research are needed. The ConMap (“Conceptual Mapping”) project, described in this dissertation, proposed and investigated some novel methods for assessing the conceptual knowledge structure of physics students.

A set of brief computer-administered tasks for eliciting students' conceptual associations was designed. The basic approach of the tasks was to elicit spontaneous term associations from subjects by presenting them with a prompt term, or problem, or topic area, and having them type a set of response terms. Each response was recorded along with the time spent thinking of and typing it.

Several studies were conducted in which data was collected on introductory physics students' performance on the tasks. A detailed statistical description of the data was compiled. Phenomenological characterization of the data (description and statistical summary of observed patterns) provided insight into the way students respond to the tasks, and discovered some notable features to guide modeling efforts. Possible correlations were investigated, some among different aspects of the ConMap data, others between aspects of the data and students' in-course exam scores. Several correlations were found which suggest that the ConMap tasks can successfully reveal information about students' knowledge structuring and level of expertise. Similarity was observed between data from one of the tasks and results from a traditional concept map task.

Two rudimentary quantitative models for the temporal aspects of student performance on one of the tasks were constructed, one based on random probability distributions and the other on a detailed deterministic representation of conceptual knowledge structure. Both models were reasonably successful at approximating the statistical behavior of a typical student's data.

Indexing (details)

Science education
0605: Physics
0714: Science education
Identifier / keyword
Education, Pure sciences, Cognitive, Conceptual mapping, Knowledge, Physics teaching
ConMap: Investigating new computer-based approaches to assessing conceptual knowledge structure in physics
Beatty, Ian D.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-B 61/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780599844209, 0599844205
Gerace, William J.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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