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Teaching IB Physics in Victorian Schools. Physics Teachers’ Conference 2004 Merryn Dawborn-Gundlach Jill Crawford Methodist Ladies’ College, Kew. The International Baccalaureate. Senior academic studies with an international focus. What is the International Baccalaureate Diploma?.

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teaching ib physics in victorian schools

Teaching IB Physics in Victorian Schools

Physics Teachers’ Conference


Merryn Dawborn-Gundlach

Jill Crawford

Methodist Ladies’ College, Kew


The International Baccalaureate

Senior academic studies with an international focus

what is the international baccalaureate diploma
What is the International Baccalaureate Diploma?
  • a comprehensive two-year program
  • a pre-university course of studies with a global focus
  • assessment mainly in Year 12
  • fulfils the requirements of various national education systems
unique characteristics
Unique characteristics
  • curriculum based on six academic areas
  • with a core of special features incorporating:
      • Theory of Knowledge (TOK)
      • Creativity, Action, Service (CAS)
      • Extended Essay

Language A1

Group 1

Individuals& SocietyGroup 3


Group 2



Group 4


Group 5

Group 6

Arts &


student program
Student Program
  • one subject from each of the six subject groups
      • at least 3 and not more than 4 at Higher Level (HL)
      • remainder at Standard Level (SL)
  • participate in the core program
      • submit an extended essay
      • follow TOK course
      • engage in CAS activities
ib assessment
IB Assessment
  • criterion referenced
  • reflects attainment of knowledge and skills
  • variety of assessment methods to value content and process
  • takes into account different learning styles and cultural patterns
award of the ib diploma
Award of the IB Diploma
  • up to 3 additional points for extended essay and work in TOK
  • each subject performance graded on a 7 point scale
  • Diploma requires minimum total of 24 points plus satisfactory completion of the extended essay, TOK course and CAS activities
university recognition
University Recognition
  • allows ready access to all major world universities
  • within Victoria, all IB students also sit the GAT and receive a ‘notional ENTER score’
  • some HL subjects give advanced placement or credit on tertiary courses
group 4 subjects
Group 4 Subjects

Experimental Sciences

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Design Technology
  • Physics
  • Environmental Systems
course specifications
Standard Level

Core 80

Options (2) 30

Investigations 25–30

Group 4 Project 10-15

Total 150 hours

Higher Level

Core 80

Additional Higher Level 55

Options (2) 45

Investigations 45-50

Group 4 Project 10-15

Total 240 hours

Course Specifications
course sl all students
Course – SL (all students)
  • Physics & Physical Measurement
  • Mechanics
  • Thermal Physics
  • Waves
  • Electricity & Magnetism
  • Atomic & Nuclear Physics
course additional higher level
Course – Additional Higher Level
  • Measurement and Uncertainties
  • Mechanics
  • Thermal Physics
  • Wave Phenomena
  • Electromagnetism
  • Quantum Physics and Nuclear Physics
  • Option A – Mechanics (SL)
  • Option B – Quantum Physics and Nuclear Physics (SL)
  • Option C – Energy Extension (SL)
  • Option D – Biomedical Physics (SL & HL)
  • Option E – The History & Development of Physics (SL & HL)
  • Option F – Astrophysics (SL & HL)
  • Option G – Relativity (SL & HL)
  • Option H – Optics (SL & HL)
assessment specifications
Standard Level

Paper 1 20 %

Paper 2 32 %

Paper 3 24 %

Internal Assessment 24%

Higher Level

Paper 1 20 %

Paper 2 36 %

Paper 3 20 %

Internal Assessment

24 %

Assessment Specifications
internal assessment
Internal Assessment
  • 8 Assessment criteria are used by the teacher to mark a selection of short and long term investigations. The student & / or teacher selected pracs are then externally moderated by the IBO.
  • The Practical Scheme of Work (PSOW) is the complete course of practical work planned by the teacher and acts as a summary of all the investigative activities (including the Group 4 Project) carried out by the student.
  • SL students must complete at least 40 hours, including the Group 4 project and HL students 60 hours.
practical scheme of work psow
Practical Scheme of Work (PSOW)



  • 1 Waves in One Dimension
  • 2 Waves in Two Dimensions : Reflection of Waves
  • 3 Waves in Two Dimensions : Refraction of Waves
  • 4 Waves in Two Dimensions : Diffraction of Waves
  • 5 Waves in Two Dimensions : Interference Patterns
  • 6 The Formation of Images in Plane Mirrors
  • 7 Curved Mirrors
  • 8 The Image Formed by a Concave Mirror
  • 9 The Refraction of Light
  • 10 Total Internal Reflection
  • 11 Lenses
  • 12 The Image Formed by a Convex Lens
  • 13 Spherical Aberration and Caustic Curves
  • 14 The Speed of Sound
  • 15 The Speed of Sound (Resonance Method)
  • 16 Analysis of Motion at Constant Velocity
  • 17 Analysis of Motion at Variable Velocity
  • 18 Motion due to Gravity
  • 19 Equilibrium
  • 20 Newton’s Second Law of Motion
  • 21 Conservation of Momentum
  • 22 Work Done Along an Inclined Plane
  • 23 Specific Heat Capacity (Part A and B)
  • 24 Specific Latent Heat of Fusion of Water
  • 25 Boyle’s Law
  • 26 Electrostatics
  • 27 Currents in Circuits
  • 28 Energy Transfer in Circuits
  • 29 Relationship between Potential Difference and Current
  • 30 Factors Affecting Resistance
  • 31 Resistors in Series and Parallel
  • 32 Controlling Currents and Potential Difference
  • 33 Resistive Components in Circuits
  • 34 Internal Resistance
  • 35 The Field of a Current Carrying Loop
  • 36 Magnetic Field of a Solenoid (Current Balance)
  • 37 Electric Motors
  • 38 Electromagnetic Induction
  • 39 A Model Transformer
  • 40 The Half Life of Protactinium
  • 41 Centripetal Force
  • 42 Determination of the Universal Gravitation Constant
  • 43 Investigation of Oscillating Systems
  • 44 Interference and Diffraction of Light
  • 45 Determination of the Velocity of Light
  • 46 Refraction of Particles
  • 47 Franck-Hertz Experiment
  • 48 Measuring Resistance and EMF by Null Methods
  • 49 Use of a Cathode Ray Oscilloscope
  • 50 Image Formed by an Astronomical Telescope
group 4 project
Group 4 Project

Sample topics:

  • Skiing
  • Science in the theatre
  • Surface tension of water
  • Weathering
  • Causes and effects of coastal erosion
  • Science of sport
  • Summertime
  • Pollution in the city
group 4 project20
Group 4 Project

MLC Group 4 Project 2003


1. Groups of 4 or 5 students:

1 Physics

1 or 2 Chemistry

1 or 2 Biology

2. Examination of the topic and definition of activities:

(2-4 hours)

Each group is to decide on a theme of common interest for the topic Summertime and the Living is Easy.

Within each group, students from each Science subject are to brainstorm ideas and note relevant aspects of the theme to be studied. You will need to investigate one aspect of Physics, and one or two aspects of Biology and Chemistry, depending on the number of students in your group and how many subjects they are representing.

3. Action:

(5-6 hours/Science subject)

Investigate the topic from the perspective of the individual science discipline. There should be collaboration with other group members, and findings should be shared with other members of the group. One poster, depicting the investigation of the topic from the perspective of each of the individual Science disciplines, is to be constructed for the final presentation and evaluation process.

Note: Students undertaking two Science subjects are required to contribute to both areas of study. These

students must complete twice the Action time (10-12 hours) as students only undertaking one

Science subject.

group 4 project21
Group 4 Project

4. Evaluation:

(2-4 hours)

The emphasis during this stage will be on students sharing their findings, both successes and failures, with other groups, staff and invited guests.

Each group will be required to present its findings using the poster format, and a 5-7 minute oral presentation from each student for each area of Science that the student studied will be required. The presentation should be a collaborative effort involving all the members of your group.

Note: while reference to the poster during the presentation is permitted, reading from the poster is strictly disallowed.

The Group 4 project will contribute toward your Internal Assessment and may be considered in your planning (a), planning (b) and personal skills categories.

The Log Book

Each student must keep a log book, regularly documenting their ongoing contribution to the project.

The log book will contain:

A record of what was accomplished during each session spent on the project.

The time spent on each activity during the project.

All notes, resources, etc. collected during the investigation.

You will need to consult with your supervising teacher about your activities during each session. Your supervising teacher will need to sign your book to verify the work completed during each session.

extended essay
Extended Essay
  • One of the requirements of the IB Diploma is for students to write a 4000 word Extended Essay.
  • This may be done in any one of the 6 subjects the student takes.
  • To assess the EE, there are several General Criteria and also Subject Specific Criteria.
  • In Physics, the EE may be experimental, data-based, survey based or a theoretical/computer model. The recommended style is for the EE to be experimental.
ee sample topics
EE – Sample Topics
  • An investigation in acoustics: the testing of transmissive, reflective and absorptive properties of some common materials.
  • On blowing bubbles in liquid: effects of detergent on surface tension.
  • The variation in resistance of a wire subjected to different strains.
  • The use of interference fringes to measure small displacements.
teaching the ib comparison to the vce
Teaching the IB – Comparison to the VCE
  • Strengths

Interesting course

Support is provided via the Online Curriculum Centre

Criterion referenced

Cooperative Learning model – students are not ranked against each other

  • Difficulties

Content driven

Lack of hours





ib physics teachers network
IB Physics Teachers’ Network

Please feel free to contact us or help us set up a network of Victorian Physics teachers in the IB system.

  • dawborlm@mlc.vic.edu.au
  • crawfojk@mlc.vic.edu.au