Undergraduate engineering student misconception regarding complex circuits: The case with solid-state device circuits
Undergraduate engineering students usually face difficulties understanding electric circuit concepts. Some of those difficulties regard with misconceptions students bring into the classroom and develop during the learning process. Additionally, the increasing complexity of the topics along the fundamental electric circuits course constitutes another factor to those difficulties students experience. Another component we can add to this equation consists of the need of modernize and actualize the curriculum to meet the society’s demands of the next taskforce. Therefore, it is important to investigate the conceptual difficulties students experience when they analyze complex electric circuits. In this dissertation, I identify what those conceptual difficulties are when undergraduate sophomore engineering students attempt to analyze solid-state device circuits. The context of this research comprises a modernized version of the traditional fundamental electric circuits course. This modernized version includes DC analysis, 1st order transient analysis, AC, and solid-state device analysis.
This dissertation took the form of three individual but complementary studies. Each study contributes to partially answer the overall research question. However, each study answered its own research problem. The first study attempted for identifying what concepts beginning students find challenging regarding semiconductors physics, diodes, and transistors. The second study identified student’s misconceptions when they analyze two solid-state device circuits, one with a diode, and the other with a transistor. The final study looked for determining what misconceptions students use at both earlier and more advances stages along the course. This study also searched for understanding how students move through conceptual changes along the semester.
The general findings comprise three main points. First, students bring misconceptions into the classroom probably built from their previous experiences. Second, they also can develop those misconceptions through the learning process. This is particularly key regarding the relatively new and complex topics from student’s perspectives. Finally, language plays an important role on the kind of misconceptions students develop. How students perceive the professional community use language contributes to either consolidate or modify old misconceptions or develop new ones.