Thermal Concept Evaluation (TCE)

Developed by Shelley Yeo and Marjan Zadnik

Purpose To assess 3rd-year high school or introductory college students’ understanding and application of thermodynamics concepts using common contexts that reflect students’ own conceptions.
Format Pre/post, Multiple-choice
Duration 30 min
Focus Thermal / Statistical Content knowledge (temperature, heat transfer, phase change, thermal properties of materials)
Level Intro college, High school
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Sample question from the TCE:

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H. Chu, D. Treagust, S. Yeo, and M. Zadnik, Evaluation of Students’ Understanding of Thermal Concepts in Everyday Contexts, Int. J. Sci. Educ. 34 (10), 1509 (2012).
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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 TCE were developed based on an inventory of alternative conceptions identified about thermodynamics in the research literature. The TCE was then tested and revised. The questions were also reviewed by experts and found to be valid, and were tested in interviews with students and were found to be interpreted as intended. Appropriate statistical analysis of reliability, discrimination and difficulty were conducted and reasonable values were found. A factor analysis was performed and four conceptual groups of questions identified: 1) heat transfer and temperature changes, 2) boiling, 3) heat conductivity and equilibrium, and 4) freezing and melting. The TCE has been used with over 1000 high school and introductory college students at nine institutions in Australia and Korea. There are two peer-reviewed publication presenting TCE data.


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Language Translator(s)  
Chinese Wei Fang
Japanese Hitoshi Katsuda and Shuji Ukon
Portuguese Marcel Braga

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Typical Results

Typical scores from Yeo and Zadnik 2001. Average TCE scores and standard deviation for 2nd, 3rd and 4th year high school students (Y10, Y11 and Y12) and introductory college students (Y13). The normalized gain from pre- to post-test for the introductory college students is 0.30 (p<.05). A comparison between the pre-test and post-test scores of the Year 13 population yielded an effect size of 0.70, using a pooled standard deviation of 14%. The average normalized gain was 0.30.


The version supplied, version 1, here has been revised to reflect U.S. idiom and common words. The original “Australian” version contained words and idioms common to Australia.