Many students interpret the meaning of wave-particle duality in ways that diverge from the accepted view

Quantum and Nuclear


Many adopt a view that mixes classical and quantum ideas, and/or hold misconceptions rooted in a classical physics worldview. For example, some students believe that an electron is either a particle or a wave, depending on the speed at which it moves.

Resources to Address This

  • This teacher guidance introduces the wave-particle topic, describes appropriate outcomes, and provides suggestions for reading in preparation for the topic.

    View Resource
  • This lesson outline compares the diffraction of electrons and light, introducing the idea of wave-particle duality. It links particle momentum to wavelength through the de Broglie equation.

    Students can practice using the de Broglie equation and learn how to interpret electron diffraction patterns.

    View Resource
  • This lesson outline introduces the student to the photoelectric effect, from the basic phenomenon to an explanation of the effect including the concept of work function and the photoelectric equation. A range of worksheets and questions are provided.

    Use these ideas to discuss whether the electrons and photons are behaving in a wavelike or particle like way and whether the electron behaviour changes with its speed of ejection.

    View Resource


  • Dutt, A., () Making the Transition from Classical to Quantum Physics, Teaching Science, 57 (4) 33-36.

  • Ayene, M., Kriek, J. and Damtie, B., () Wave-particle duality and uncertainty principle: Phenomenographic categories of description of tertiary physics students’ depictions Physical review special topics -physics education research, 7, 020113.

    DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.7.020113

Limit Less Campaign

Support our manifesto for change

The IOP wants to support young people to fulfil their potential by doing physics. Please sign the manifesto today so that we can show our politicians there is widespread support for improving equity and inclusion across the education sector.

Sign today