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Undergraduate quantum mechanics: lost opportunities for engaging motivated students?
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8180-5369
2018 (English)In: European journal of physics, ISSN 0143-0807, E-ISSN 1361-6404, Vol. 39, no 2, article id 025705Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Quantum mechanics is widely recognised as an important and difficult subject, and many studies have been published focusing on students' conceptual difficulties. However, the sociocultural aspects of studying such an emblematic subject have not been researched to any large extent. This study explores students' experiences of undergraduate quantum mechanics using qualitative analysis of semi-structured interview data. The results inform discussions about the teaching of quantum mechanics by adding a sociocultural dimension. Students pictured quantum mechanics as an intriguing subject that inspired them to study physics. The study environment they encountered when taking their first quantum mechanics course was however not always as inspiring as expected. Quantum mechanics instruction has commonly focused on the mathematical framework of quantum mechanics, and this kind of teaching was also what the interviewees had experienced. Two ways of handling the encounter with a traditional quantum mechanics course were identified in the interviews; either students accept the practice of studying quantum mechanics in a mathematical, exercise-centred way or they distance themselves from these practices and the subject. The students who responded by distancing themselves experienced a crisis and disappointment, where their experiences did not match the way they imagined themselves engaging with quantum mechanics. The implications of these findings are discussed in relation to efforts to reform the teaching of undergraduate quantum mechanics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 39, no 2, article id 025705
National Category
Physical Sciences Educational Sciences Gender Studies
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-341687DOI: 10.1088/1361-6404/aa9b42ISI: 000423670100002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-341687DiVA, id: diva2:1182233
Available from: 2018-02-12 Created: 2018-02-12 Last updated: 2018-03-14Bibliographically approved

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The full text will be freely available from 2018-11-17 13:00
Available from 2018-11-17 13:00

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Johansson, Anders

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