Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Computer and Information Technology

First Advisor

Alejandra J. Magana

Committee Chair

Alejandra J. Magana

Committee Member 1

Dawn Laux

Committee Member 2

Baijian Yang


Electric circuits are extensively used in today’s devices as computers, phones, cameras and others. This makes them a crucial topic in engineering because almost every engineering branch could be related of used them at different levels. Even though their importance, students often struggle during the learning process of circuit analysis topics. Additionally, other very important abilities for engineering students are the capacities to create, use, express and think about models and representations of technical concepts; and the capacities to translate and map from one representation to another. These abilities are known as representational competence and representational fluency respectively.

The purpose of this exploratory study was to analyze how the use of multiple representations of technical concepts is related to the conceptual understanding of those concepts. The methodological approach employed was case study, which was implemented through two cases and focuses on electric circuit analysis at the college level. An activity based on model-eliciting activities was used to assess representational competence, fluency and conceptual understanding of the students in order to explore the relationship between (1) using multiple representations and conceptual understanding and (2) the ability to map between representations and conceptual understanding.

The results of this exploratory study indicate that a multi-representational approach can support and foster the learning process and conceptual understanding of electric circuits. Furthermore, the results also suggest a positive relationship between representational competence and fluency and conceptual understanding. Which suggest that students with high representational competence and fluency may interpret concepts more deeply. Results also indicate that students with a deep conceptual understanding are able to create more accurate representations and to map between representations accurately as well. Finally, the contribution of this exploratory study relies on (1) the application of a multi-representational analysis of conceptual understanding of electric circuit and (2) the probe of using multiple and additional representations during the learning process of electric circuits.