Assessing Engineering Students’ Conceptual Understanding of Introductory Quantum Optics

Bitzenbauer P, Veith JM, Girnat B, Meyn JP (2022)

Publication Language: English

Publication Type: Journal article, Original article

Publication year: 2022


Book Volume: 4

Pages Range: 1180-1201

Journal Issue: 4


DOI: 10.3390/physics4040077

Open Access Link:


Quantum technologies have outgrown mere fundamental research in laboratories over recent years, and will facilitate more and more potentially disruptive applications in a wide range of fields in the future. In foresight, qualification opportunities need to be implemented in order to train qualified specialists, referred to as the future quantum workforce, in various fields. Universities world-wide have launched qualification programmes for engineers focusing on quantum optics and photonics. In many of these programmes, students attend courses on quantum physics contextualized via quantum optics experiments with heralded photons, because: (1) their experimental and physical foundations may be directly leveraged to teaching a number of quantum technology applications, and (2) physics education research has provided empirical evidence, according to which such quantum optics-based approaches are conducive to learning about quantum concepts. While many teachers are confident about the effectiveness of their concepts, there is little empirical evidence due to the lack of content-area-specific research tools. We present a 16-item concept inventory to assess students’ conceptual understanding of quantum optics concepts in the context of experiments with heralded photons adopted from a test instrument published in the literature. We have administered this Quantum Optics Concept Inventory as a post-test to N=216" role="presentation">N=216 students after instruction on quantum optics as part of an undergraduate engineering course. We evaluated the instruments’ psychometric quality, both in terms of classical test theory, and using a Rasch scaling approach. The Quantum Optics Concept Inventory enables a reliable measure (α=0.74" role="presentation">α=0.74), and the data gathered show a good fit to the Rasch model. The students’ scores suggest that fundamental quantum effects pose striking learning hurdles to the engineering students. In contrast, most of the students are able to cope with the experimental and technical foundations of quantum optics experiments with heralded photons and their underlying principles, such as the coincidence technique used for the preparation of single-photon states. These findings are in accordance with prior research, and hence, the Quantum Optics Concept Inventory may serve as a fruitful starting point for future empirical research with regard to the education of the future quantum workforce.

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Bitzenbauer, P., Veith, J.M., Girnat, B., & Meyn, J.-P. (2022). Assessing Engineering Students’ Conceptual Understanding of Introductory Quantum Optics. Physics, 4(4), 1180-1201.


Bitzenbauer, Philipp, et al. "Assessing Engineering Students’ Conceptual Understanding of Introductory Quantum Optics." Physics 4.4 (2022): 1180-1201.

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