The Force Concept Inventory as a Measure of Students Conceptual Coherence
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The Force Concept Inventory (FCI) is a multiple choice test designed to monitor students’ understanding of the conceptual domain of force and related kinematics (Hestenes et al. Physics Teacher 30:141–158 1992; Halloun et al., 1995, Online at http://modeling.asu.edu/R&E/Research.html). It has gained wide popularity among both researchers and physics instructors in the United States and elsewhere. The FCI has also been criticized, and its validity as a measure of the coherence of a student’s understanding of the force concept has been questioned. In this paper we provide a characterization of students’ conceptual coherence and a way to evaluate it using the FCI. We divide students’ conceptual coherence into three aspects: representational coherence (the ability to use multiple representations and move between them), contextual coherence (the ability to apply a concept across a variety of contexts), and conceptual framework coherence (the ability to fit related concepts together, i.e. to integrate and differentiate between them). Postinstruction FCI results and interview data from two Finnish high school groups (n=49 total) are discussed; the data provide evidence that the FCI can be used to evaluate students’ conceptual coherence—especially contextual coherence—of the force concept.
Key Wordsconceptual coherence Force Concept Inventory multiple representations Newton’s laws teaching force
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