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This article illustrates the use of research as a basis for the development of curriculum on physical optics. Evidence is presented that university students who have studied physics at the introductory level and beyond often do not have a functional understanding of the wave model for light. Identification and analysis of student difficulties guided the design of a set of tutorials to supplement instruction in a standard calculus-based or algebra-based course. Ongoing assessment was an integral part of the curriculum development process. The instructional materials that resulted have proved to be effective at helping students construct and apply a basic wave model for light.
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