Relativity Concept Inventory (RCI)

Developed by John S. Aslanides and Craig M. Savage

Purpose To measure changes in students’ conceptual understanding of special relativity and identify students’ misconceptions.
Format Pre/post, Multiple-choice
Duration 30 min
Focus Modern / Quantum Content knowledge
Level Intro college
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Sample questions from the RCI:

RCI sample questions

RCI Implementation and Troubleshooting Guide

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J. Aslanides and C. Savage, Relativity concept inventory: Development, analysis, and results, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 9 (1), 010118 (2013).
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Silver Validation
This is the second highest level of research validation, corresponding to at least 5 of the validation categories below.

Research Validation Summary

Based on Research Into:

  • Student thinking

Studied Using:

  • Student interviews
  • Expert review
  • Appropriate statistical analysis

Research Conducted:

  • At multiple institutions
  • By multiple research groups
  • Peer-reviewed publication

The multiple-choice questions on the RCI were developed based on a list of concepts informed by the learning goals for a relevant course, textbooks and the research literature. This list of topics was reviewed by 30 international experts and revised. Questions were drafted for each concept and, when possible, answer choices were based on student ideas from the literature. These questions were reviewed by experts and given to students who either participated in think aloud interviews or gave written feedback on their reasoning to each question. Questions were revised and given to over 60 students in a physics 2 course. Appropriate statistical analyses of reliability, difficulty and discrimination were conducted and reasonable values found (the mean discrimination index was a little low, but this is partly due to the test being easy for the advanced population it was tested with). There is a statistically significant gender gap in scores between males (n=38) and females (n=15), with males outscoring females. The RCI has been given to over 60 students at one university, and the results published in one peer-reviewed publication.


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Typical Results

The mean RCI score on the pre-test was 56%, and on the post-test 71% (n=63) as reported in Aslanides and Savage 2013. These are high scores which came from a course of high academic achievers, as indicated by their median Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) score of 95, out of a possible 99.95.

The latest version of the RCI, released in 2013, is version 1.