Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



In astronomy it is crucial to understand that light is an electromagnetic wave that can exhibit interference and polarization phenomena. For many years, however, research in physics education has shown that physics students, both mainstream introductory students and physics majors, encounter serious difficulties when they endeavor to develop and apply a wave model to the behavior of light. This presentation will focus on well-identified difficulties some of them deeply-seated alternate conception suggested by the analysis of student responses to various research tasks (ungraded quizzes, written exams, individual student interviews). Also to be discussed are examples of teaching-by-questioning strategies that seem effective in addressing these difficulties. All examples come from research previously conducted at the University of Washington in the context of the introductory calculus-based waves and optics course or from more recent work at Grand Valley State University in a sophomore-level modern physics course.

Conference Name

2012 AAPT Winter Meeting

Conference Location

Ontario, CA