Teaching Particle-Wave Duality with Double-Slit Single-Photon Interference in Dutch Secondary Schools

Euwe van den Berg*, Aernout van Rossum, Jeroen Grijsen, Henk J. Pol, Jan van der Veen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


A lesson series on quantum physics was taught to grade 12 students in 5 different secondary schools. Among others, the series contained a special demonstration experiment for particle-wave duality (double-slit single-photon interference) which was supplemented by the PhET applet quantum wave interference. Preconceptions on particles and waves were assessed in a pretest. Interviews were conducted with 24 students in 4 schools after the demonstration. A posttest was administered to 112 students in 3 schools. Some lessons were observed by an outside observer and/or videotaped, followed by interviews. Results indicate that learning objectives of quantum physics are well within reach of the 12th grade students. This shows especially in student discussions of the PhET applet. However, understanding of wave-particle duality is hindered by insufficient understanding of the prerequisite wave concept that waves are spread out in space. Most students associated a wave with an oscillation and somehow forgot about the spatial aspects. As a consequence, the “strangeness” of wave-particle duality was underappreciated. Also, the link with the de Broglie wavelength discussed early in the lesson series was not made. As in the 5th school quantum physics started several weeks later, we were able to try an improved lesson design for the demonstration successfully. Interviews are very helpful in catching misinterpretations of demonstrations and generating suggestions for improvement. Students do appreciate the confusing wonders of quantum physics but in the post-interviews seem unaware of the many quantum-based devices around them and the many everyday phenomena (like color) which need quantum physics for explanation. Perhaps as teachers and curriculum developers, we are too eager to overemphasize the exotic and strange aspects of quantum theory and underemphasize utility in everyday applications.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch and Innovation in Physics Education
Subtitle of host publicationTwo Sides of the Same Coin
EditorsJenaro Guisasola, Kristina Zuza
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-51182-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-51181-4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2020

Publication series

NameChallenges in Physics Education, CPE
ISSN (Print)2662-8422
ISSN (Electronic)2662-8430


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