Teaching quantum interpretations: revisiting the goals and practices of introductory quantum physics courses

Charles Baily, Noah D. Finkelstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Most introductory quantum physics instructors would agree that transitioning students from classical to quantum thinking is an important learning goal, but may disagree on whether or how this can be accomplished. Although (and perhaps because) physicists have long debated the physical interpretation of quantum theory, many instructors choose to avoid emphasizing interpretive themes; or they discuss the views of scientists in their classrooms, but do not adequately attend to student interpretations. In this synthesis and extension of prior work, we demonstrate: (1) instructors vary in their approaches to teaching interpretive themes; (2) different instructional approaches have differential impacts on student thinking; and (3) when student interpretations go unattended, they often develop their own (sometimes scientifically undesirable) views. We introduce here a new modern physics curriculum that explicitly attends to student interpretations, and provide evidence-based arguments that doing so helps them to develop more consistent interpretations of quantum phenomena, more sophisticated views of uncertainty, and greater interest in quantum physics.
Original languageEnglish
Article number020124
Number of pages14
JournalPhysical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2015


  • Physics education research
  • Quantum mechanics
  • Interpretation
  • Curriculum development


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