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The photoelectric effect is part of a group of phenomena that provide the experimental basis for the photon model of light. Most students pursuing a degree in physics or a related field first study the photoelectric effect and the photon model of light in a "modern physics" course following directly after the introductory physics sequence. It has been documented that many students have trouble understanding the photoelectric effect itself, and its connection to the photon model of light. In an attempt to better understand student preconceptions and misconceptions of this topic, we conducted a study of students in a modern physics class at California State University, San Marcos. In this paper we will provide preliminary results of our research with specific emphasis on the knowledge base required to understand the photoelectric effect.
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