Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ronald G. Good


The purpose of this study was to investigate the concepts prevalent among students in specific physical science related classes and to identify what classroom teachers would do when confronted with this knowledge. A 40 item instrument, Misconception Identification in Science Questionnaire (MISQ), was developed to identify certain concepts in the areas of force, heat, light, and electricity and administered to 509 students. Interviews were conducted with a stratified sampling of 27 students to validate the instrument. Six teachers were observed and interviewed to determine teacher opinion relative to test usefulness, diagnostic testing in general and other instructional factors. Quantitative and qualitative means were utilized to determine test reliability, validity, and usefulness. Item analysis was performed to determine item discrimination ability, as well as test reliability. Students were interviewed using the MISQ items and their oral responses were compared to their answers given on the pen-and-paper test. Confidence and sensibleness ratings were determined for each MISQ item utilizing responses given on the written test. The MISQ was analyzed and determined to have the ability to discriminate among various ability groups and possesses both validity and reliability. Female elementary science methods and physics students performed no better than the male physical science students on the MISQ. In general male students scored higher than their female peers and viewed their responses as more sensible and with more confidence. As age decreased among the students tested with the MISQ the confidence and sensibleness rating tended to decrease. Analysis of teacher interviews revealed three uses of the MISQ instrument in this study. The first of these was in the form of a general informative nature. The second utilized selected items as integral parts of the instructional process. The third used student responses as part of a grouping strategy. Further analysis reveals that the limited use of the MISQ may be due to several factors, both external and internal. External factors include governmental control through curricular and text requirements and societal control through future educational expectations. Internal factors include teacher held concepts of learning in general and specifically those regarding student behaviors used to identify learning.