Ideas for Year 11 and 12 Physics students for ERTs

From Dr Richard Walding, BAppSc, MSc, MPhil, PhD, FAIP, FRACI, CChem, Griffith University, Australia
Senior Physics & Chemistry teacher - Moreton Bay College, Brisbane
Author New Century Senior Physics textbook by Oxford University Press.

An Extended Response Task (ERT) is an assessment instrument that requires you to respond to a "science question, statement, circumstance or issue". It is essentially non-experimental, but will require research and use of secondary (someone else’s) data – although you may have to draw on primary (your own) experimental data. This webpage concerns completing an Extended Response Task in Queensland (Australia) Senior Physics in the persuasive exposition genre. It refers to criteria and task types from the syllabuses produced by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority but is not meant to imply that the QCAA endorses any of the comments. It is a personal opinion.

Download How to Write a Deadly ERT in Senior Physics

Download an ERT Guide for Senior Physics - a short, student friendly guide for incorporation into a ERT task sheet.

Download a sample ERT for Senior Physics (below)


In an ERT students are required to respond to a science question (a Research Question), statement (Thesis), circumstance or issue (Stimulus) related to their curriculum. It is essentially non-experimental, but requires research and use of secondary data – although students may have to draw on primary experimental data. An ERT can be created  by stating a Topic/Focus (F), providing a Stimulus or Scenario, and generating a Research Question and a Thesis, viz:

Topic: Thermodynamics and Nuclear Energy
(Teacher given = closed; student generated = open).

Stimulus: The use and availability of energy is closely linked to social and human development. Moreover, energy decisions impact water, food production, resource utilization and climate change issues. As concerns about energy escalate, humans will be faced with an increasingly complex set of issues and questions about how we chart our future energy path. Understanding the physics involved in extracting energy from the different types of fuels, or examining the ways different heating and cooling applications rely on a sound knowledge of physics is essential for an informed energy consumer. (Stimulus given by teacher).

Research Question: Should we allow nuclear energy to be used in Australia as a way of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels? (Teacher given = closed; student generated = open).

Thesis: As a source of energy nuclear energy is better than current fossil fuel technology for the production of energy for large-scale consumption.  (Teacher given = closed; student generated = open).

The lists below show examples of Focus Areas (F),  Stimulus (S), Research Questions (RQ) and Thesis statements (T) for use in a Persuasive Exposition ERT in Physics.  Note: these will not necessarily apply to other genres used for ERTs in Physics.

Examples of Topic/Focus areas:
  • Amusement Park physics F
  • Nuclear Medicine F
  • Car Safety and Roundabouts F
  • Enhancing Vision F
  • Historical development of models of atomic structure. F
    (This topic is an example of one that would need to be discussed with the teacher to ensure that the task criteria can be addressed.)

Example of a Stimulus

You are a science reporter for the magazine "Science Nation", a magazine similar to the "New Scientist" magazine, but focussing mainly on producing science articles clarifying issues for senior science students and the general public with an interest in science. Your editor has just asked you to produce an article to be titled "Air bags in cars - Myths Busted".  As your editor explains to you, there is some confusion in the public about the use of air bags. In the eyes of some members of the public, it is thought that they cause more damage than seat belts alone. Evidence from United States showing that people have had their necks broken by airbags is cited to support their claims. To others, the issue is a non-event, as scientists and governments have shown that US airbags use higher amounts of explosives to produce faster inflation as seatbelts are not compulsory there. The editor wants you to make a strong statement and write an article to argue the case. S

Examples of Research Questions

  • Which is better, digital hearing aids or analogue ones? RQ
  • In what way do our electrical systems incorporate a number of devices that illustrate the basic physics principles and ideas associated with the interactions between electric and magnetic fields? RQ
  • Induction heating is responsible for the loss of energy during its transmission so how can it also be used as an efficient heating method in the domestic environment? RQ
  • How does the interaction between electric and magnetic fields provide the necessary requirements for the recording, reading and production of sound? RQ
  • How are wave and particle theory applied in practical contexts? RQ

Examples of Thesis Statements

  • The laws of thermodynamics may be used to refute, on a scientific basis, the theory of evolution and support the position of creationists. T
  • Different traffic situations require different traffic management/calming techniques. T
  • Changing the design parameters of a Dreamworld ride affects the thrill and safety of the ride. T
  • The use of radiation for the treatment of foods is an effective and safe way to extend the shelf life of perishable foods and address an impending crisis in food shortages in the world today. T
  • The application of nuclear medical technology is an important adjunct to diagnostic medicine and provides an effective means for the monitoring and treatment of disease. T
  • As a source of energy, nuclear energy provides a safer alternative than current fossil fuel technology for the production of energy for large-scale consumption. T
  • MRI is better than a CT Scan for medical diagnosis. T
  • PET scans are dangerous as they involve nuclear radiation. T
  • Digital cameras can record better images than film cameras.T
  • Einstein had a more profound effect on Physics than did Newton. T
  • The wave model of light better accounts for the properties of light than does the particle model. T
  • Electronic levels in atoms are not really true – they are mathematical solutions to real-world observations. T
  • Time travel is not possible, no matter what the movies say. T
  • When riding a bicycle over rough ground, it is better to take your feet off the pedals to avoid discomfort. T
  • The acoustic guitar is a very energetic instrument. T
  • For a rollercoaster ride, Design A is better than Design B (supplied). T
  • Audio recording quality has improved since the introduction of digital techniques. T
  • Optical fibre technology has revolutionised methods of communication. T


The degree of openness of an ERT inquiry can be varied by changing the parameters of the task. The following table shows how this can be achieved. It does not necessarily mean that the complexity or challenge of the task increases with increasing open-ness, just the control the student has over the process. Level "0" Openness (verification) can apply equally to inquiry tasks or "closed" non-inquiry problems where the data is given and there is a "correct" answer; eg: calculate the average speed of a car that accelerates from rest and covers 100 m in 12 seconds. In Senior Physics students are most likely to be dealing with Level 2a Openness and above in their ERTs.

Change in Openness
Openness Level
Research Question
Common Name
Guided Inquiry
Open Guided Inquiry
Open Guided Inquiry
Open Inquiry

Sample ERT task - Physics of Falling Bodies

This is a sample of an ERT which relies on more quantitative data than others provided. It can be downloaded here: Forensic Physics. The supporting article from The American Journal of Physics, Volume 76, Number 9, September 2008 by physicist  Professor Rod Cross from The University of Sydney can also be downloaded here: AJP-V76(9).

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