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Abstract Title: Interviews with Upper-Level Undergraduates about Representations of Plane Waves
Abstract: A robust grasp of plane waves is helpful for studying advanced Optics topics such as reflection, interference, and the wavelength dependence of refractive index.  Although there have been many studies of students' understanding of waves, only a small fraction have been dedicated to plane waves, which are particularly challenging both conceptually and mathematically.  In this study, 30-45 minute interviews about plane waves were conducted with nine upper-level science/engineering majors, all of whom had previously taken courses in electromagnetic theory where plane waves were invoked.  The interviews revealed several aspects of how students struggle to move between conceptual and mathematical representations of plane waves.  Examples include a disconnect between 1-D and 3-D waves (relating to 1-D physically but 3-D only mathematically),  an inability to articulate how the mathematical form dictates planar iso-surfaces, and the challenge of interpreting multiple types of vectors (e.g. E-fields and wavevectors) drawn in the same diagram.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Andrew Berger
University of Rochester
Goergen Hall 405, The Institute of Optics
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627

Contributed Poster

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