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Any meaningful initiative to improve the teaching and learning in introductory control systems courses needs a clear test of student conceptual understanding to determine the effectiveness of proposed methods and activities. The authors propose a control systems concept inventory. Development of the inventory was collaborative and iterative. The diagnostic test was administered to students before (pre) and after (post) student learning activities. Test responses were analyzed to provide instructors with feedback on their teaching. Using classical test theory and item response theory, aggregated results were analyzed to assess internal consistency and measurement error, respectively. Students demonstrated an improvement from pre- to post-test scores, showing gains of 23%-34% in understanding of new concepts learned. The internal consistency of the test has ranged from 0.61 to 0.68. It can be shown that the precision of the test is highest in the score range of 33%-66%, which is where most post-test scores occurred.
Date of Publication: May 2012