|The Chemical Concepts Inventory* (CCI) is a multiple choice instrument that can be used to indicate the level of chemistry misconceptions held by students. The inventory is a multiple choice instrument composed of one- and two-tiered non-mathematical conceptual questions (22 questions total). The questions are based on common commonly-observed student misconceptions about topics generally covered in the first semester of a college chemistry course. The inventory was administered to over 1400 students in a general chemistry course for science and engineering majors (all of whom have had a high school chemistry course) during the first week of a fall semester and repeated during the first week of the following spring semester. The average grade on the inventory was 45% (10 of 22) in the fall and 50% (11 of 22) the following spring.
The inventory indicates that many of our general chemistry students are not fluent with a significant portion of the concepts in general chemistry. They have difficulty with fundamental concepts concerning the properties and behavior of atoms and molecules. For example, after at least two semesters of high school chemistry and one semester of general chemistry, 47% of our students believe that the rust from a completely rusted iron nail weighs less than the nail it came from; 75% cannot distinguish between the properties of a single atom of sulfur and a sample of solid sulfur; and 65% believe that breaking chemical bonds gives off energy.
Please feel free to download this inventory and use it with your students.
If you do use these questions to assess student learning would your students score better or worse than on traditional exams? Probably worse because these questions probe understanding, not memorized processes or definitions. (Balancing equations, writing formulas, unit conversions, solving stoichiometry problems, determining concentrations, identifying a phase change, writing quantum numbers, writing Lewis structures, identifying molecular geometries: all are memorizable processes.)
*The Chemical Concepts Inventory was developed by Doug Mulford for his M.S. thesis, (Douglas R. Mulford, M.S., Purdue University, August, 1996. An Inventory for Measuring College Students' Level Of Misconceptions in First Semester Chemistry. Major Professor: William R. Robinson)