Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Investigating the influence of visualization on student understanding of quantum superposition

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Visualizations in interactive computer simulations are a powerful tool to help students develop productive mental models, particularly in the case of quantum phenomena that have no classical analogue. The QuVis Quantum Mechanics Visualization Project develops research-based interactive simulations for the learning and teaching of quantum mechanics. We describe efforts to refine the visual representation of a single-photon superposition state in the QuVis simulations. We developed various depictions of a photon incident on a beam splitter, and investigated their influence on student thinking through individual interviews. Outcomes from this study led to the incorporation of a revised visualization in all QuVis single-photon simulations. In-class trials in 2013 and 2014 using the Interferometer Experiments simulation in an introductory quantum physics course were used for a comparative study of the initial and revised visualizations. The class that used the revised visualization showed a lower frequency of incorrect ideas about quantum superposition, such as the photon splitting into two half-energy components.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhysics Education Research Conference 2014
EditorsPaula V. Engelhardt, Alice D. Churukian, Dyan L. Jones
PublisherAmerican Association of Physics Teachers
ISBN (Print)978-1-931024-23-5
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2015
EventPhysics Education Research Conference 2014 - University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN, United States
Duration: 30 Jul 201431 Jul 2014

Publication series

NamePER Conference series
PublisherAmerican Association of Physics Teachers
ISSN (Print)1539-9028
ISSN (Electronic)2377-2379


ConferencePhysics Education Research Conference 2014
CountryUnited States
CityMinneapolis, MN

    Research areas

  • Quantum mechanics, Simulations, Visualization, Conceptual understanding, PERC 2014

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Enhancing student learning of two-level quantum systems with interactive simulations

    Kohnle, A., Baily, C., Campbell, A., Korolkova, N. & Paetkau, M., Jun 2015, In : American Journal of Physics. 83, 6, p. 560-566

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Optimization of simulations and activities for a new introductory quantum mechanics curriculum

    Kohnle, A., Baily, C., Hooley, C. & Torrance, B., 1 Feb 2014, 2013 Physics Education Research Conference. Engelhardt, P. V., Churukian, A. D. & Jones, D. L. (eds.). American Association of Physics Teachers, p. 209-212 (PERC Proceedings).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

  3. Different approaches to research and innovation in physics education at college and university

    Guisasola, J., Zolman, D., Bollen, L., Van Kampen, P., Baily, C., De Cock, M., Dreef, T., Buning, J., Fokkema, D., Hijmans, T., Kuik, G., Fazio, C., Battaglia, O. R. & Zuza, K., 16 Aug 2019, GIREP-ICPE-EPEC 2017 Conference, Proceedings. McLoughlin, E. & van Kampen, P. (eds.). Institute of Physics Publishing, p. 1-12 12 p. 012060. (Journal of Physics: Conference Series; vol. 1286, no. 1).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

  4. Enhancing student visual understanding of the time evolution of quantum systems

    Passante, G. & Kohnle, A., 13 Feb 2019, In : Physical Review Physics Education Research. 15, 1, 14 p., 010110.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. The difference between a probability and a probability density

    Kohnle, A., Jackson, A. & Paetkau, M., Feb 2019, In : The Physics Teacher. 57, 3, p. 190-192

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 192626765