Confirmatory factor analysis applied to the force concept inventory

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



In 1995, Huffman and Heller used exploratory factor analysis to draw into question the factors of the Force Concept Inventory (FCI). Since then several papers have been published examining the factors of the FCI on larger sets of student responses and understandable factors were extracted as a result. However, none of these proposed factor models have been verified to not be unique to their original sample through the use of independent sets of data. This paper seeks to confirm the factor models proposed by Scott et al. in 2012, and Hestenes et al. in 1992, as well as another expert model proposed within this study through the use of confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and a sample of 20 822 postinstruction student responses to the FCI. Upon application of CFA using the full sample, all three models were found to fit the data with acceptable global fit statistics. However, when CFA was performed using these models on smaller sample sizes the models proposed by Scott et al. and Eaton and Willoughby were found to be far more stable than the model proposed by Hestenes et al. The goodness of fit of these models to the data suggests that the FCI can be scored on factors that are not unique to a single class. These scores could then be used to comment on how instruction methods effect the performance of students along a single factor and more in-depth analyses of curriculum changes may be possible as a result.




Eaton, P., & Willoughby, S. D. (2018). Confirmatory factor analysis applied to the Force Concept Inventory. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 14(1). doi:10.1103/physrevphyseducres.14.010124
Copyright (c) 2002-2022, LYRASIS. All rights reserved.