The ability to use concepts learned in one context to solve problems in a different context (i.e., transfer of learning) is often one of the major goals of physics instruction. After all, the ability to transfer learning from one context to another is a prerequisite to recognizing the applicability of compact physical laws to a multitude of contexts and is a hallmark of expertise in physics. The majority of the studies on transfer of learning in physics have focused on introductory students and it has often been found that introductory students have difficulty in effectively transferring their learning and applying what they learned in one situation to another situation. However, compared to advanced students, introductory students have significantly less prior relevant knowledge and skills, which may be crucial for promoting effective transfer. Here, we examine upper-level undergraduate and graduate students' ability to transfer their learning about the concept of “which-path” information and its relation to whether or not interference is observed from the context of the Mach Zehnder interferometer (MZI) to a new context of the double-slit experiment (DSE). Students worked through a tutorial on the MZI in which they learned to use the concept of which-path information to reason about interference of single photons when polarizers with various orientations are placed in one or both paths of the MZI. After working on the MZI tutorial, students were asked similar questions in the isomorphic context of the DSE before any instruction about the DSE and we examined the extent to which transfer of learning about which-path information occurred from the MZI to the DSE context. We find evidence suggesting that positive transfer of learning from the MZI to the DSE occurred despite the lack of an instructional intervention designed to help students recognize the similarity between the two contexts. The effectiveness of the MZI tutorial in promoting positive transfer of learning from one context to another in quantum mechanics sheds light on the expertise of the advanced physics students. Instructors of advanced physics courses can take advantage of the findings presented here, which show the difference between introductory and advanced physics students' expertise and ability to transfer from one context to another.

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