Victorian biology curriculum
The Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) biology study design is divided into four
semester long units relating to big ideas which are studied progressively over year 11 and 12.
The VCE biology course culminates by studying evolution.
 Unit 1 – Unity and Diversity
 Unit 2 – Organisms and their environment
 Unit 3 – Signatures for Life
 Unit 4 – Continuity and Change
Unit 4: Continuity and change
Continuity and change is about genetics, the universality of DNA
and its conservation and variation within an organism and between
Area of study 1 - Heredity
Concentrates on molecular genetics, techniques, genes, heritable traits and variation, cell
reproduction gene regulation and expression and how genes are passed from one
generation to the next to continue the trait and patterns of inheritance.
Area of study 2 – Change over time
Explores hypotheses to explain how changes to species have come about and examine
evidence for evolutionary change over time from ancestral lines of life that have given rise to
the biodiversity seen today. Functional genomics and human intervention in gene
technology are also examined with investigation in emerging technological applications and
the implications of advances in molecular genetics.
The VCE biology study design considers the historical development of ideas and
technological advances have contributed to our knowledge and understanding of inheritance
and evolutionary biology. Students come to understand the dynamic nature of science,
human influence and controversial issues and ethics from a variety of perspectives.
Developments in bioinformatics assist in collecting and interpreting large volumes of
biological data which students learn to evaluate. The ability to apply technologies that can
change the genetic composition of individual organisms and species, including humans,
raises controversial issues for individuals and society. Students examine these issues and
consider their implications from a variety of perspectives.
Key knowledge areas are listed as follows
• change in populations: gene pool, allele frequencies; selection pressures; genetic drift;
• natural selection as a mechanism of evolution;
• geological time: scale; relative and actual dating techniques;
• evidence of evolution: fossil record, biogeography, comparative anatomy; molecular
• patterns of evolution: divergent, convergent; allopatric speciation, extinction;
• the development of evolutionary theory;
• evolutionary relationships: conservation of genes; genome phylogeny; mitochondrial
• hominid evolution: patterns, origin;
• interrelationships between biological, cultural and technological evolution;
• human intervention in evolutionary processes – selective breeding – application of gene
technologies: cloning of organisms; transformation; stem cell differentiation; genetic
screening, gene therapy.
Our CoRe has assimilated these key knowledge areas into 3 big ideas or themes which can
be used to teach and assess the topic of evolution. Genetic change, either over time by
evolution or human intervention in genetic engineering by its very nature stirs scientific
debate and argument which is integral to the VCE study design. Our CoRe reflects this and
embraces the higher order skills of hypothesis, research, evidence evaluation, interpretation,
collaboration, debate and presentation. As students conclude their studies in secondary
biology they are prepared for a range of further study and vocational possibilities.

Biology curriculum Evolution draft

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