Events Calendar

PhD Defense: Paul Justice

Helping Students Learn Quantum Mechanics using Research-Validated Learning Tools



The development and implementation of research-validated instructional tools has shown promise in improving student learning in not only introductory physics courses, but also upper level quantum mechanics. Engaging students with well-designed clicker questions is one of the commonly used research-based instructional strategies in physics courses partly because it has a relatively low barrier to implementation in classes of any size. Moreover, validated robust sequences of clicker questions are likely to provide better scaffolding support and guidance to help a variety of students build a good knowledge structure of physics than an individual clicker question on a particular topic. In this dissertation, I discuss a framework for the development, validation and in-class implementation of clicker question sequences (CQS) and apply that framework to help advanced undergraduate students learn quantum mechanics in the context of the Stern-Gerlach experiment, Larmor precession of spin, the addition of angular momentum, and the concepts involving Fermi energy and total electronic energy of a free electron gas and the Fermi-Dirac distribution function, several of which take advantage of the learning goals and inquiry-based guided learning sequences in previously validated Quantum Interactive Learning Tutorials (QuILT). The in-class evaluation of the CQSs using peer instruction is discussed.  This dissertation also explores the impact of increased mathematical rigor in a QuILT on students’ conceptual understanding of quantum optics.  In particular, student performance after engaging with a QuILT, which uses a guided inquiry-based approach to help students learn concepts involved in a quantum eraser in the context of the Mach-Zehnder Interferometer (MZI) is discussed for two versions: one version was primarily qualitative and the other involved both conceptual and quantitative aspects of MZI.  The implications of the extent to which students learned from the two versions of the QuILT using the Integration of Conceptual and Quantitative Understanding in Physics (ICQUIP) framework, which emphasizes appropriate integration of conceptual and quantitative aspects to equip students with functional knowledge and skills, is discussed. Finally, I discuss instructional pragmatism and how instructors should view teaching as a process and innovate in their courses using a variety of research-based instructional pedagogies to improve student learning.

Tuesday, July 16 at 10:00 a.m.

Allen Hall, 321
3941 O'Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213