Date of Award

12-18-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Dr. Brian Thoms

Second Advisor

Dr. Josh VonKorff

Third Advisor

Dr. Unil Perera

Fourth Advisor

Dr. John Wilson

Abstract

One key goal of Physics Education Research is providing research-based instructional techniques and tools to help assess the complex learning goals associated with a mature understanding of physics. Characterizing faculty expectations is important to produce a comprehensive understanding of knowledge students should acquire before and during a quantum mechanics course (QMC). Semi-structured interviews have been conducted with faculty members and students entering a QMC in the Physics Program at a Large Public Research University (LPRU) in the Southeast. The interviews examine perspectives of different evaluation techniques, ideal preparation, course content, and expected conceptual models of students. A post-course survey was offered to the students that took the QMC in the Fall of 2012 and to those who completed the course in the past three years. The survey addressed similar questions on evaluation, course content, and preparation. Using Classical Content Analysis and Key-Words-In-Context coding methods, contradictions and similarities within and between faculty and student populations are presented. These results are presented in an effort to highlight predictors for success in the QMC, identify “common-core” perceptions, and strengthen course evaluation. In all data, findings suggest that student perceptions shift towards those of faculty over the course of the QMC. Evaluation data indicate that on average the faculty members, like students, are open to a varied array of evaluation techniques, if it is within the goals of the course and does not interfere with other faculty responsibilities. In perceptions of preparation and course content, faculty have a uniform perspective of what should be prerequisite, and the student survey data strongly recommend that the second semester of Linear Algebra offered at the LPRU will help with the mathematical complexities of the QMC. Through triangulation of qualitative and quantitative results contradictions of preparation and content are exhibited through multiple media for the use course content such as the Hamiltonian.

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