Development and Use of a Conceptual Survey in Introductory Quantum Physics
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31, Issue 5 March 2009 , pages 631 - 654
Sura Wuttiprom; Manjula Devi Sharma; Ian D. Johnston; Ratchapak Chitaree; Chernchok Soankwan
Conceptual surveys have become increasingly popular at many levels to probe various aspects of science education research such as measuring student understanding of basic concepts and assessing the effectiveness of pedagogical material. The aim of this study was to construct a valid and reliable multiple-choice conceptual survey to investigate students' understanding of introductory quantum physics concepts. We examined course syllabi to establish content coverage, consulted with experts to extract fundamental content areas, and trialled open-ended questions to determine how the selected content areas align with students' difficulties. The questions were generated and trialled with different groups of students. Each version of the survey was critiqued by a group of discipline and teaching experts to establish its validity. The survey was administered to 312 students at the University of Sydney. Using the data from this sample, we performed five statistical tests (item difficulty index, item discrimination index, item point biserial coefficient, KR-21 reliability test, and Ferguson's delta) to evaluate the test's reliability and discriminatory power. The result indicates that our survey is a reliable test. This study also provided data from which preliminary findings were drawn on students' understandings of introductory quantum physics concepts. The main point is that questions which require an understanding of the standard interpretations of quantum physics are more challenging for students than those grouped as non-interpretative. The division of conceptual questions into interpretive and non-interpretive needs further exploration.