Sean Larsen

Date of Award

Summer 8-10-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Mathematics Education


Mathematics and Statistics

Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 237 pages)


Group theory -- Mathematical models -- Research, Abstract algebra -- Study and teaching, Mathematics -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Methodology




Within undergraduate mathematics education, there are few validated instruments designed for large-scale usage. The Group Concept Inventory (GCI) was created as an instrument to evaluate student conceptions related to introductory group theory topics. The inventory was created in three phases: domain analysis, question creation, and field-testing. The domain analysis phase included using an expert consensus protocol to arrive at the topics to be assessed, analyzing curriculum, and reviewing literature. From this analysis, items were created, evaluated, and field-tested. First, 383 students answered open-ended versions of the question set. The questions were converted to multiple-choice format from these responses and disseminated to an additional 476 students over two rounds. Through follow-up interviews intended for validation, and test analysis processes, the questions were refined to best target conceptions and strengthen validity measures. The GCI consists of seventeen questions, each targeting a different concept in introductory group theory. The results from this study are broken into three papers. The first paper reports on the methodology for creating the GCI with the goal of providing a model for building valid concept inventories. The second paper provides replication results and critiques of previous studies by leveraging three GCI questions (on cyclic groups, subgroups, and isomorphism) that have been adapted from prior studies. The final paper introduces the GCI for use by instructors and mathematics departments with emphasis on how it can be leveraged to investigate their students' understanding of group theory concepts. Through careful creation and extensive field-testing, the GCI has been shown to be a meaningful instrument with powerful ability to explore student understanding around group theory concepts at the large-scale.

Persistent Identifier