Python for Engineers Concept Inventory (PECI): Contextualized assessment of programming skills for engineering undergraduates

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution



A key outcome of Engineering Education is computing skills for industry 4.0. The curriculum must address an increasing reliance on model-based design, simulation, and algorithmic data processing. Python is a popular, in-demand language; exhaustive online resources and tutorials exist, challenging educators to make assessment robust to online plagiarism, and to make instruction contextually relevant to engineering. How do engineering educators develop, measure, and evaluate engineering students programming skills, accelerate their learning, and improve instruction effectiveness? A Concept Inventory (CI) is a powerful standardised assessment instrument to answer this question and its development and validation is an active research topic. We present a Python for Engineers CI (PECI) which assesses concepts, and errors observed in learners through 250 Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs). It is evaluated by embedding it into an introductory undergraduate module, whose pedagogy includes contextualised learning and auto-graded interactive computing laboratory notebooks. Using a mixed-methods approach on learning data from a student cohort (n=68), we validate PECI through student learning gains, reliability analysis and qualitative feedback. Items are shown to differentiate high and low performing students, and each item contributes to assessment reliability. The work is of value to engineering educators wishing to develop standardised assessment instruments for computing skills.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSEFI 47th Annual Conference
Subtitle of host publicationVarietas Delectat... Complexity is the New Normality, Proceedings
EditorsBalazs Vince Nagy, Mike Murphy, Hannu-Matti Jarvinen, Aniko Kalman
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event47th SEFI Annual Conference 2019 - Varietas Delectat: Complexity is the New Normality - Budapest, Hungary
Duration: 16 Sep 201919 Sep 2019

Publication series

NameSEFI 47th Annual Conference: Varietas Delectat... Complexity is the New Normality, Proceedings


Conference47th SEFI Annual Conference 2019 - Varietas Delectat: Complexity is the New Normality


  • Assessment reliability, Computing skills, Concept inventory, Python

ASJC Scopus subject areas