Dynamics Concept Inventory
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The authors of the Dynamics Concept Inventory (DCI) are:
  • Gary L. Gray, Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Penn State University
  • Don Evans, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Arizona State University
  • Phillip J. Cornwell, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  • Brian Self, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo

Concept Inventories

Concept inventories are an invaluable tool for the assessment of student learning and curricular innovations. Student misconceptions are not random, but are generally the result of a deficiency in their understanding of fundamental principles. The source of these misunderstandings can be traced to deeply-seated preconceptions that make the complete understanding of fundamental principles very difficult. In order to create a new conceptual framework and to displace the existing one that has been ingrained over many years, new teaching methodologies have to be established. Concept inventories are an excellent instrument with which to validate the effectiveness of these new methodologies.

The body of research knowledge on student learning of Newtonian mechanics, including both kinematics and kinetics, has become quite rich in the last 15 years, but, because of its newness, this knowledge generally remains unfamiliar to most instructors. Unfortunately, this research literature on student learning of mechanics has yet to significantly influence either the presentation of the subject in textbooks or the emphasis and pedagogy used in the classroom. For the most part, the teaching of dynamics continues to be patterned after how instructors were taught when they were students of the subject, rather than being informed by research on learning. We believe that we are on the verge of seeing vast improvements in how much and how well students learn in this subject and we present this DCI with the hope that we can assist and even hasten this improvement.

The Dynamics Concept Inventory

The DCI is a multiple-choice exam with 29 questions. It covers 11 concept areas in rigid body dynamics and several more in particle dynamics. The exam has been in development since September 2002 and version 1.00 (i.e., the first public release) was released in January 2005. The following papers describe the DCI and its development. Each is available as a PDF file by clicking on the icon on the left.
PDF icon Gary L. Gray, Don Evans, Phillip Cornwell, Francesco Costanzo, Brian Self (2005) "The Dynamics Concept Inventory Assessment Test: A Progress Report," Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, Portland, OR.
PDF icon Gary L. Gray, Don Evans, Phillip Cornwell, Francesco Costanzo, and Brian Self (2003) "Toward a Nationwide Dynamics Concept Inventory Assessment Test," Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, Nashville, TN.
PDF icon D. L. Evans, Gary L. Gray, Stephen Krause, Jay Martin, Clark Midkiff, Branisla M. Notaros, Michael Pavelich, David Rancour, Teri Reed-Rhoads, Paul Steif, Ruth Streveler, Kathleen Wage (2003) "Progress on Concept Inventory Assessment Tools," Proceedings of the 33rd ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, November 5-8, Boulder, CO, pp. T4G-1--T4G-8.
We encourage your comments and feedback on the DCI. Please send them to .

Obtaining the DCI

The DCI can be obtained by downloading it via the link below.
PDF icon Dynamics Concept Inventory, version 1.00

To obtain the password that will allow you to view and print the DCI, please email the DCI developers at and please provide the following information:
  1. your name, phone number, institutional affiliation, and position;
  2. the course in which you will be using the DCI;
  3. the size of the enrollment in that course.
The answer key, provided as an Excel file, is available .

Administering the DCI

It is recommended that you administer the DCI as a pre-test (at the start of a dynamics course) and as a post-test (at the end of a dynamics course). This will allow you to measure conceptual gains for a particular class. In addition, please use the following guidelines when administering the DCI.
  1. For ease of grading, we use computer-graded forms, but that is certainly not required.
  2. Give the students exactly 30 minutes for the exam.
  3. Please do not allow the students to keep a copy of the DCI test. We do not want it to appear on the web!
Finally, we encourage you to send us the raw data from both the pre- and post-test administration of the exam so that we can continue to assess the exam.

[Engineering Science & Mechanics] [PSU Engineering] [Penn State]
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This page was last modified on July 10, 2013.

© Copyright 2005-2013 by Gary L. Gray.