Exploring the structure of misconceptions in the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation with modified module analysis

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Investigating student learning and understanding of conceptual physics is a primary research area within physics education research. Multiple quantitative methods have been employed to analyze commonly used mechanics conceptual inventories: the Force Concept Inventory (FCI) and the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE). Recently, researchers have applied network analytic techniques to explore the structure of the incorrect responses to the FCI identifying communities of incorrect responses which could be mapped on to common misconceptions. In this study, the method used to analyze the FCI, modified module analysis was applied to a large sample of FMCE pretest and post-test responses (Npre=3956, Npost=3719). The communities of incorrect responses identified were consistent with the item groups described in previous works. As in the work with the FCI, the network was simplified by only retaining nodes selected by a substantial number of students. Retaining as nodes only those incorrect answer choices selected by at least 20% of the students produced communities associated with only four misconceptions. The incorrect response communities identified for men and women were substantially different, as was the change in these communities from pretest to post-test. The 20% threshold was far more restrictive than the 4% threshold applied to the FCI in the prior work that generated similar structures. Retaining nodes selected by 5% or 10% of students generated a large number of complex communities. The communities identified at the 10% threshold were generally associated with common misconceptions producing a far richer set of incorrect communities than the FCI; this may indicate that the FMCE is a superior instrument for characterizing the breadth of student misconceptions about Newtonian mechanics.
Original languageEnglish
Article number010121
JournalPhysical Review Physics Education Research
Issue number1
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

ID: 332703334