Dubson_QM_Faculty_Disagreement_PERC09 - Faculty...

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Faculty Disagreement about the Teaching of Quantum Mechanics Michael Dubson 1 , Steve Goldhaber 1,2 , Steven Pollock 1 , and Katherine Perkins 1,2 1 Department of Physics, UCB 390, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder CO 80309 2 Science Education Initiative, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309 Abstract. To guide research-based transformation of upper-division physics classes, it is useful to identify learning goals that are broadly supported by the faculty. Our efforts to transform our junior-level E&M course have revealed a broad faculty consensus on the content of the course, if not the pedagogical approach. In contrast, we find a range of opinions on both the content and the pedagogy in junior-level QM. We surveyed 27 faculty about their approaches to teaching QM, and reviewed 20 quantum textbooks. Although there is broad agreement on the list and order of topics (Schrödinger equation to matrix methods and spin), we find substantial disagreement in several pedagogical aspects, including (1) the importance of presenting QM on an axiomatic basis (i.e. the postulates); (2) the treatment of measurement in QM (in particular, the collapse of the wave function); and (3) the physical interpretation of the wave function (matter wave vs. information wave vs. something else). Keywords: upper-division quantum mechanics, curriculum reform, faculty survey, quantum mechanics textbooks PACS: 01.40.-d, 01.40.Fk, 01.40.gb, 01.40.G-, 03.65.-w INTRODUCTION Our department at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) is engaged in a substantial effort to transform our junior-level Electricity and Magnetism (E&M) and Quantum Mechanics (QM) courses, making them more interactive, with clicker questions, peer instruction, white-board activities, and group- work tutorials [1, 2]. An important step in this process is to specify the learning goals though faculty discussions and consensus [3]. In conversations with our faculty and from a previous study [4], it became clear that, although there is a consensus about the content of E&M, there are a wide variety of opinions about both content and pedagogy in junior-level QM. In an effort to gauge the range of opinions, we developed a survey about the teaching of junior-level QM, and questioned 27 physics faculty (22 from CU and 5 from other schools). At CU, we teach a two- semester junior/senior QM sequence, but the faculty were asked specifically about 1 st semester, which introduces most of the fundamental concepts of QM. Interviews were conducted in person for CU faculty and by phone for non-CU faculty. We also examined 20 QM textbooks [5] — both those in current use and those used by the faculty when they were undergraduates — with an eye toward specific features (described below) which may have influenced faculty opinions. All 27 faculty interviewed have used quantum
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This note was uploaded on 02/27/2012 for the course PHYSICS 3220 taught by Professor Stevepollock during the Fall '08 term at Colorado.

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Dubson_QM_Faculty_Disagreement_PERC09 - Faculty...

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