Unit Planner: Fields

Unit: Fields

Start date:

End date:

Diploma assessment

When will the content be assessed?

Paper 1 x
Paper 2 x
Paper 3
Investigation x

Text book reference


Inquiry: Establishing the purpose of the unit

Transfer Goals
List here one to three big, overarching, long-term goals for this unit. Transfer goals are the major goals that ask students to “transfer”, or apply, their knowledge, skills, and concepts at the end of the unit under new/different circumstances, and on their own without scaffolding from the teacher.

  • To extend students' understanding of non-contact forces and field strength to include potential and the work done on moving objects within fields
  • For orbitting bodies, to understand the concept of escape velocity
  • To distringuish between types of field: Gravitational or electric? Uniform or radial?

List here the key content that students will know by the end of the unit

  • Gravitational fields, field strength and field lines
  • Energy transferred and work done
  • Potential as a scalar quantity and equipotentials
  • Field strength and potential gradient
  • Escape velocity
  • For circular orbits, T2 ∝ R3
  • Total energy of a satellite in a circular orbit
  • Electric fields and field strength
  • Electric potential and potential energy
  • Formula for potential close to a sphere of charge

List here the key skills that students will develop by the end of the unit.

  • Use of 'hills' and 'wells' models to understand whether concepts are positive or negative
  • Use of points, gradients and areas to calculate field strength and work done
  • Distinguishing between similar but subtely different definitions

List here the key concepts that students will understand by the end of the unit

  • Similarities and differences between gravitational and electric fields
  • Derivation of Kepler's third law
  • Relationship between equipotentials and field lines

Examples of real world practical applications of knowledge.

  • Weightlessness
  • Satellites for communication and spying, space stations, space probes e.g. Rosetta
  • High potentials are used to generate sparks in car engines, causes gases to glow in discharge tubes and accelerate particles in particle accelerators
  • All bodies experience gravitational forces and all charged bodies experience electric forces

Action: teaching and learning through Inquiry

Approaches to teaching
Tick boxes to indicate pedagogical approaches used.

Lecture x
Simulation x
Small group work (pairs) x
Hands on practical x
Video x
Student centred inquiry x

Examples of how TOK can be introduced in this unit

  • An example of the way physics is built on definitions.
  • How can we calculate the work done from infinity when we can't actually do this?
  • Use of language. Weightless sounds like it means something with no weight but to have no weight you would have to be outside the field. Many people think that there is no gravity outside the atmosphere but this is of course not the case.
  • Pictures of TV satellites in orbit often give a distorted picture as to how far away they are.
  • Electric and gravitational forces are very similar, why is the universe so symmetric?
  • If there existed "negative mass" it would fit nicely into our field model. Does this mean it exists?

Examples of how NOS can be introduced in this unit.

  • Graphs of potential vs position help us to visualise the field by thinking of it as hills and wells. The steeper the hill the stronger the force.
  • Field lines and equipotentials are two ways of visualising fields.


What went well
List the portions of the unit (content, assessment, planning) that were successful

What didn’t work well
List the portions of the unit (content, assessment, planning) that were not as successful as hoped

List any notes, suggestions, or considerations for the future teaching of this unit.

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