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Student Understanding of Tunneling in Quantum Mechanics: Examining Interview and Survey Results for Clues to Student Reasoning Documents

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Student Understanding of Tunneling in Quantum Mechanics: Examining Interview and Survey Results for Clues to Student Reasoning 

written by Jeffrey T. Morgan, Michael C. Wittmann, and John R. Thompson

Members of the University of Maine Physics Education Research Laboratory are studying student understanding of the phenomenon of quantum tunneling through a potential barrier, a standard topic in most introductory quantum physics courses. When a series of interviews revealed that many students believe energy is lost in the tunneling process, a survey was designed to investigate the prevalence of the energy-loss idea. This survey was administered to populations of physics majors at the sophomore and senior levels. Data indicate that interview results are shared by a somewhat larger population of students and give insight into additional models of reasoning (e.g. analogies to macroscopic tunnels) not found in the interviews.

Published September 9, 2004
Last Modified July 7, 2013

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