Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Science & Mathematics Teaching Center


Ana Houseal, Chair

Second Advisor

Sylvia Parker

Third Advisor

Nick R. Jones

Fourth Advisor

Maggie Bourque


This project explores the use of concept sketches as alternative forms of assessment in determining students’ understandings of energy concepts. A review of the literature indicates that students have difficulty understanding basic energy concepts. Studies also suggest that adults demonstrate low energy literacy, including basic knowledge of energy concepts. These findings demonstrate a massive hurdle to overcome in solving challenging environmental issues such as climate change. Consumers of energy are handicapped in their ability to make informed decisions related to their energy use because of their lack of knowledge regarding where energy originates and the processes necessary to make it into a usable form. Improving energy education in K-12 education is one proposed solution for overcoming this barrier. One aspect of this solution includes the development of assessments that uncover students’ prior knowledge of energy in real-world contexts. In this study, concept sketches are defined in the literature and then utilized as an alternative form of assessment. This type of assessment requires participants to trace electricity back to the original sources of energy through a series of sketches and descriptions. Findings indicate that this may be a useful method for identifying participants’ prior knowledge of energy sources and energy flows. They also demonstrate that concept sketches could be used more than once in an energy curriculum to assess students’ knowledge and serve as a learning tool for these concepts.


Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters in Science in Natural Science Education in the Science and Mathematics Teaching Center at the University of Wyoming.