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Advice for teachers -
Physics

Sample approach to developing an assessment task

Unit 3

Area of Study 1: How do things move without contact?

Outcome 1

Analyse gravitational, electric and magnetic fields, and use these to explain the operation of motors and particle accelerators and the orbits of satellites.

Step 1: Define the parameters of the outcome, including relevant key knowledge and key science skills, and the related assessment task options

Review the outcome for Unit 3 Area of Study 3 and identify the key knowledge from pages 36 and 37 and relevant key science skills from pages 11 and 12 of the VCE Physics Study Design that students will be expected to develop. For some outcomes the assessment of achievement may best be structured by using more than one assessment task; teachers should exercise judgment in the determination of the number of tasks in the assessment of an outcome to balance assessment of student performance and student workload. Assessment task/s will contribute to the determination of an S or an N for the outcome.

For this outcome, at least one task from a choice of eleven tasks as listed on page 41 of the VCE Physics Study Design should be chosen.

The selected task accounts for 30 marks of the 90 marks available for School-assessed coursework in Unit 3 and contributes 7 per cent to a student’s study​ score for VCE Physics.

Step 2: Decide on the type of task and review the conditions under which the task will be conducted

A detailed description of task types for VCE Physics may be found in suggested approaches to assessment tasks. Tasks should be completed under supervision for authentication purposes and should not exceed 50 minutes and/or 1000 words. Reading time should be built into the assessment task in addition to allocating time for the response. Teachers may produce an assessment template to assist students to complete the assessment task. Students may need to access data and information from their logbooks in order to be able to respond to the task. Prior to the task students should be advised of the timeline and the conditions under which the task will be conducted, and have an indication of the knowledge and skills that will be assessed.

Step 3: Examine the assessment advice

Review the performance descriptors as they provide an indication of qualities and characteristics that teachers should look for in a student response.

Step 4: Design the assessment task

Consider what it will look like when students develop the identified key knowledge and key skills then use this as a basis to develop a valid assessment task. The assessment task should allow students to demonstrate their physics knowledge in terms of relevant concepts and skills.

One assessment task for Unit 3 Outcome 1 is the explanation of the operation of a device.

Students work individually to research a device. The teacher can supply a list of devices and students may suggest others. As much as possible, each student should have a unique device to research. Examples of devices that relate to this outcome include:

  • electric fields: electrostatic motor, Van de Graff generator, photocopier, dust precipitator, defibrillator, paint spraying, surface disinfection, capacitor, loudspeaker, ion drive, electric field sensor, electroreceptors, electric eels
  • magnetic fields: Wien filter, mass spectrometer, electron microscope, linac, series wound DC motor, shunt wound DC motor, magnetohydrodynamic drive, fusion reactor, magnetometers, quadrapole magnet, and
  • gravitational fields: space elevator, three-stage rockets, gravitational slingshot, satellites at Lagrangian points, eccentric orbits of GPS satellites.

Students will undertake the assessment task individually. They should use their own logbook throughout the investigation to record their results. The teacher will collect the logbook and monitor the student’s progress through observations and discussions with students. The assessment task related to the device requires students to answer two key questions: What does it do? and How does it work?. In this example there are two stages.

  • Stage 1: In the first session in class, the students are advised of their device. Each student uses a logbook to document their research, identifying each source accessed precisely and including the information gathered from that source and rating the value of the information as well as other comments by the student. This stage should be a minimum of one session, but no more than three sessions. At the end of this stage, the logbook is handed in to the teacher, or in the case of an electronic logbook, a printout is submitted.
  • Stage 2: In the final session the logbooks and printouts are handed back to the students. The students have 50 minutes to answer in writing the two key questions plus additional questions the teacher might like to include. The teacher may wish to give the students access to their textbook. The logbooks can also be collected and may contribute to the assessment.

Step 5: Determine teaching and learning activities

For Unit 3 Area of Study 1 the teacher should plan a sequence of teaching and learning activities that will enable students to develop the key knowledge and key science skills and lead students towards achieving the desired outcomes. When developing teaching and learning activities, teachers should consider prior learning and alternative conceptions held by students.

Teaching and learning activities that could support students to prepare for this assessment include:

  • practical activities including experimental investigations related to electric, magnetic and/or gravitational fields, and
  • quantitative exercises related to electric, magnetic and/or gravitational fields.

When to assess the students

The teacher must decide the most appropriate time to set the task. This decision is the result of several considerations including:

  • the estimated time it will take to cover the key knowledge and skills for the outcome
  • when assessment tasks are being conducted in other studies and the workload implications for students.

Marking the task

The marking scheme used to assess a student’s level of performance should reflect the relevant aspects of the performance descriptors and be explained to students before commencing a task.

Performance descriptors​ provide a guide to the levels of performance typically demonstrated within each range on the assessment task/s. The performance descriptors for each outcome identify the qualities or characteristics expected in a student response.

Authentication:

Authentication issues can be minimised if students complete the assessment task under supervision and if the assessment task is new for that cohort of students. Authentication issues will also be minimised by timely collection of student logbooks and signing off on sighted work.

Unit 4

Area of Study 3: Practical investigation

Outcome 3

On completion of this unit the student should be able to design and undertake a practical investigation related to waves, fields or motion, and present methodologies, findings and conclusions in a scientific poster.

Step 1: Define the parameters of the outcome, including relevant key knowledge and key science skills, and the related assessment task options

Review the outcome for Unit 4 Area of Study 3 and identify the key knowledge from Units 3 and/or 4 on pages 36 to 40 and 43 to 46 and relevant key science skills from pages 11 and 12 of the VCE Physics Study Design that students will be expected to develop. Assessment tasks will contribute to the determination of an S or an N for the outcome.

This outcome, listed on page 48 of the VCE Physics Study Design, may be undertaken at any time across Units 3 or 4 but will be reported as Unit 4 Outcome 3.

The selected task accounts for 35 marks of the 95 marks available for School-assessed coursework in Unit 4 and contributes 7 per cent to a student’s study score for VCE Physics.

Step 2: Decide on the type of task and review the conditions under which the task will be conducted

A detailed description of task types for VCE Physics may be found in suggested approaches to assessment tasks​​. For this outcome, students will undertake an investigation and report findings using a scientific poster format. The task may be completed and assessed in sections.

Students should initially propose a research question and investigation method that should be submitted to the teacher for approval and as an assessment of the student’s capacity to design investigations. Following feedback regarding their design, students may proceed with their investigation, proceed with a modified investigation or be guided to complete a suggested investigation in order that all safety and ethical requirements are met and that the student has an opportunity to generate useful data. Between 7 and 10 hours of class time should be allocated for the planning, conducting, analysis and write up of the investigation. Schools may determine conditions for the task including the nature of any out-of-class work and how it may be authenticated. Students should be advised of the task timeline, the conditions under which the task will be conducted and the criteria by which the investigation will be assessed; the poster itself may form only a part of the assessment. A scientific poster template that includes the requisite poster headings as specified on page 13 of the study design should be used. The poster should not exceed 1000 words, not including any references/ acknowledgments (if applicable).

Step 3: Examine the assessment advice

Review the performance descriptors​ as they provide an indication of qualities and characteristics that teachers should look for in a student response.

Step 4: Design the assessment task

This task involves students designing the practical investigation. The relevant key knowledge from page 46 in addition to the relevant key science skills from pages 10 and 11 of the VCE Physics Study Design should be identified for task approval by the teacher. Since the context for the investigation may relate to content in either Unit 3 and/or Unit 4, further relevant key knowledge from these units should also be identified. Teachers must ensure that student investigation designs meet all safety, health and ethical requirements before students proceed with their investigations. The investigation designs may also be required to be submitted to a school’s research ethics committee.

Step 5: Determine teaching and learning activities

For Unit 4 Area of Study 3 the teacher should plan a sequence of teaching and learning activities that will enable students to develop the key knowledge and key science skills and lead students towards achieving the desired outcomes.

Teaching and learning activities that could support students to prepare for this assessment include:

  • discussions of experimental design including evaluation of sample experimental designs
  • examples of data sets involving different methods of presentation (tables, line graphs, correlation, line of best fit, calculations of mean and fitting an appropriate curve to graphical data) including the use of error baron graphs
  • discussion of the key design features of scientific posters and an evaluation of the effectiveness of scientific communication in sample posters.

When to assess the students

The teacher must decide the most appropriate time to set the task. This decision is the result of several considerations including:

  • the estimated time it will take to cover the key knowledge and skills for the outcome
  • when assessment tasks are being conducted in other studies and the workload implications for students.

Marking the task

The marking scheme used to assess a student’s level of performance should reflect the relevant aspects of the performance descriptors and be explained to students before commencing a task. The poster and its sections may be marked progressively. Teachers may include practical assessment as students undertake their investigations and/or may include assessment of relevant sections of their logbooks, for example, recording and analysis of investigation results.

Performance descriptors​ provide a guide to the levels of performance typically demonstrated within each range on the assessment task/s. The performance descriptors for each outcome identify the qualities or characteristics expected in a student response.

Authentication

Authentication issues can be minimised if students complete the assessment task under supervised test conditions. Authentication issues will also be minimised by changing the selected practical activity on which the student investigation is based from year to year, or modifying the set of sub-headings to be included the poster each year, or changing the focus of the assessment criteria and performance descriptors. ​