Some students visualise a photon as a point particle travelling sinusoidally in space

Quantum and Nuclear


For example, some students described light as particles following a wave-shaped trajectory. Or, the might believe that particles pursue sinusoidal paths of various kinds (like a wave) at the microscopic level.

Resources to Address This

  • Encourage students to think through and discuss their understanding of the photon model of light by discussing energy transfer by photons. Link this to the photoelectric effect as evidence for particle like behaviour rather than wavelike behaviour.

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  • This series of videos discusses a range of areas where students have misconceptions about quantum and nuclear physics.

    This includes the discussion of the particle and wavelike behaviour of light through the photon model, photoelectric effect and double slit experiment.

    The videos can be used to discuss that nature of light and when the different models are applied.

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  • Discuss the interaction of light and matter through the photon model in the context of absorption leading to an increase in the thermal energy of an object. This then introduces the idea of photon being part of an energy transfer process where some of these transfers are quantised – each photon delivering a small quantity of energy.

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  • Bungum, B., Henriksen, E. K., Angell, C., Tellefsen, C. W. and Bøe, M. V., () Improving teaching and learning in quantum physics through educational design research, Nordic Studies in Science Education, 11 (2).

  • Taslidere, E. () Development and use of a three-tier diagnostic test to assess high school students’ misconceptions about the photoelectric effect, Research in Science & Technological Education, 34 (2)


  • Müller, R. and Wiesner, H. () Teaching quantum mechanics on an introductory level, American Journal of Physics, 70 (3)


    DOI: 10.1119/1.1435346

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


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