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Advice for teachers -
Physics

Practical activities

Practical activities may be used to introduce and consolidate understanding of a physics concept and to develop scientific skills and should not be limited to assessment tasks.

The principles of fair testing through controlled experiments are important in science, but may not always enable students to understand scientific ideas or concepts, answer their questions or appreciate how scientists work and the nature of science. At this level, different methods of scientific inquiry that generate primary data may be utilised. Common to different methods of scientific inquiry and practical activities are three key aspects that are central to the study design’s inquiry focus: asking questions, testing ideas and using evidence.

The following identifies examples of practical activities involving a range of scientific inquiry methods across VCE Physics Units 1 to 4 that enable development of scientific skills:

Unit 1

  • Controlled experiment: investigate how the energy received by a solar cell is related to its orientation
  • Single variable exploration: investigate thermal equilibrium temperature by mixing different samples of water at different temperatures
  • Pattern seeking: investigate whether two 60 W light bulbs shine brighter than three 40 W light bulbs
  • Classification and identification: develop a dichotomous key to classify the particles in the ‘particle zoo’
  • Investigation of scientific models: devise demonstrations to illustrate the strengths and limitations of water flow as an analogy for electric current

Unit 2

  • Controlled experiment: investigate the effect of temperature on the percentage rebound height of a squash ball
  • Single variable exploration: investigate how the appearance of a comet, and its location in the night sky, change over a week
  • Pattern seeking: determine whether right and left ears hear sound differently
  • Classification and identification: develop a way of determining whether a particular type of wind instrument can be modelled as a tube closed at one or both ends
  • Investigation of scientific models: develop a model to study the frequency of a ‘bottle organ’ of several identical bottles filled with different amounts of water

Unit 3

  • Product, process or system development: design, construct and test a three-setting heating (high, medium, low) that uses only two resistive elements, a power supply and an arrangement of connecting wires and switches; measure the heat energy output of each of the three settings
  • Single variable exploration: determine when an unevenly hung towel falls off a towel rail
  • Investigation of a scientific model: devise an inquiry to test the statement that ‘if you are sinking in soft mud, you should not move vigorously to try to get out’
  • Product, process or system development: design, set up and test a ‘speed trap’ to determine whether cyclists are exceeding 20 km/h at a particular location, including specifying the limitations of your detection system
  • Classification and identification: use scales such as the Forel-Ule Scale (used in limnology and oceanography for determining the colour of bodies of water) or the Torino Scale (designed to communicate to the public the risk associated with a future Earth approach by an asteroid or comet) to develop a scale of magnetic attraction
  • Controlled experiment: investigate how the bounce of a table tennis ball is affected when it is partially filled with water

Unit 4

  • Pattern seeking: investigate the patterns produced when looking at a point-like source through different woven textiles
  • Product, process or system development: design, construct and test a fluid-based lens system with adjustable focus and suggest possible applications of your system
  • Investigation of a scientific model: develop a model to explain why veins appear to be blue when human blood is red​