VCE BIOLOGY
Summary of proposed changes to the study design
This table provides detailed information about proposed changes to the VCE Biology study
Section
Current study design
Proposal for revised study design
Scope of study
A single Rationale covers both
proposed Scope of study and
Rationale
Explains aspects of the broad discipline of
biology that is included in VCE Biology
Rationale
Explains the importance of studying VCE
Biology, including post-secondary pathways
Aims
Includes a set of seven VCE
biology aims
Proposes set of two VCE Biology specific
aims and a set of seven generic aims which
apply to all VCE sciences (Biology,
Chemistry, Environmental Science, Physics
and Psychology)
Key science
skills
A set of key skills is described
under three general headings
A set of key science skills is described under
seven general headings which apply to all
VCE sciences, with elaborations specific to
VCE Biology
Unit questions
Unit titles
 Unit 1: Unity and diversity
 Unit 2: Organisms and their
environment
 Unit 3: Signatures of life
 Unit 4: Continuity and
change
Unit questions designed to link concepts and
ideas across the unit and to reflect the inquiry
nature of science
 Unit 1: How do living things stay alive?
 Unit 2: How is continuity of life
maintained?
 Unit 3: How do cells maintain life?
 Unit 4: How is life challenged by change?
Area of study
questions
Area of study has short phrases
as titles
Area of study has questions as titles which
are designed to enable exploration of the
concepts and ideas related to the topics
within the area of study
Key knowledge
sub-headings
Key knowledge listed as a set of
dot points
Key knowledge dot points listed under sets of
sub-headings
©VCAA, August 2014
VCE BIOLOGY
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES
Section
Current study design
Proposal for revised study design
Unit 1
Area of Study 1
Current Unit 1 Area of Study 1
(Cells in action) includes:
 cell structure
 cell functioning
 composition of cells
 internal and external
environments of cells
 cell growth
 cell replication
What are the requirements for life?
Topics:
 cell size, structure and function
 the plasma membrane
 unicellular and multicellular organisms
 autotrophs and heterotrophs
Similar to current Unit 1 Area of Study 1
except that:
 role and function of major groups of
organic and inorganic substances deleted
 cell replication moved to Unit 2 Area of
Study 1
 photosynthesis and cellular respiration
considered only in terms of function: no
biochemical detail required
Includes some current Unit 1 Area of Study 2
content related to systems in multicellular
organisms:
 less detail in mechanism of digestive,
circulatory, respiratory and excretory
system function since included in
AusVELS
 focus on a selected study of system
failure
©VCAA, August 2014
2
VCE BIOLOGY
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES
Section
Current study design
Proposal for revised study design
Unit 1
Area of Study 2
Current Unit 1 Area of Study 2
(Functioning organisms)
includes:
 common requirements of
living things
 reproduction
 classifying organisms
How do living systems sustain life?
Topics:
 survival through adaptations and regulation
 classification of biodiversity
 relationship between organisms within an
ecosystem
 population size determinants
Increased focus on how cells, systems,
organisms and ecosystems function together
to sustain life. This includes :
 content related to classification from
current Unit 1 Area of Study 2
 relevant content from current Unit 2, with
deletion of AusVELS content related to
ecosystem relationships, biogeochemical
cycles and ecosystem change over time,
and deletion of plant tropisms,
development and life cycles, reproductive
strategies
 new inclusion of malfunctions in
homeostatic mechanisms as illustrated by
Type 1 diabetes and hyperthyroidism
 new inclusion of keystone species
Unit 1
Area of Study 3
©VCAA, August 2014
Not included
Practical investigation into the survival of an
individual or species
 new area of study with a skills focus
 investigation question relates to content in
Unit 1 Areas of Study 1 and/or 2
 student designed and conducted
3
VCE BIOLOGY
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES
Section
Current study design
Proposal for revised study design
Unit 2
Area of Study 1
Current content from Unit 2
Area of Study 1 (Adaptations
of organisms) includes:
 resource availability and
biotic and abiotic
environmental factors
 structural, physiological,
behavioural and
reproductive adaptations
 plant tropisms
 environmental monitoring
in terms of change and
species distribution
Why is reproduction important?
Unit 2
Area of Study 2
Current content from Unit 2
Area of Study 1 (Dynamic
ecosystems) includes:
 ecosystem components
 relationships between
organisms
 energy flows in
ecosystems
 cycling of matter
 population dynamics
 change to ecosystems
over time
 techniques for monitoring
and maintaining
ecosystems
How is inheritance explained?
Topics:
 genomes, genes and alleles
 chromosomes
 genotypes and phenotypes
 pedigree charts and genetic cross
outcomes
 genetic screening and decision-making
Builds on AusVELS knowledge related to the
transmission of heritable characteristics from
one generation to the next through DNA and
genes
Includes relevant content from Unit 4 Area of
Study 1: genes. alleles, genomes,
chromosomes. genotypes, phenotypes,
pedigree charts, genetic cross outcomes
New inclusion of genetic screening and
decision-making
Unit 2
Area of Study 3
Not included
Investigation of an issue involving reproduction
and/or inheritance
 new area of study with a skills focus,
particularly science communication
 investigation question relates to content in
Unit 2 Areas of Study 1 and/or 2
©VCAA, August 2014
Topics:
 the cell cycle
 uncontrolled cell division
 asexual reproduction
 sexual reproduction
 stem cells
Includes:
 content from current Unit 1 Area of
Study 1 related to cell replication
 content from current Unit 4 Area of
Study 1: binary fission; cell cycle;
mitosis; meiosis
 new content related to cloning
 new content related to stem cells and their
applications in development of medical
therapies
4
VCE BIOLOGY
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES
Section
Current study design
Proposal for revised study design
Unit 3
Area of Study 1
Current content from Unit 3
Area of Study 1 (Molecules of
life) includes:
 the nature and importance
of biomacromolecules in
the cell
 the structure and function
of the plasma membrane
and the movement of
substances across it
 the nature of biochemical
processes within cells
How do cellular processes work?
Topics
 membranes
 nucleic acids and proteins
 gene structure and regulation
 structure and regulation of biochemical
pathways
 photosynthesis
 cellular respiration
Similar to current Unit 3 Area of Study 1
content:
 biomolecules limited to proteins and
nucleic acids
 deletion of rational drug design
 deficiencies and malfunctions of the
immune system are considered through the
specific examples of multiple sclerosis, HIV
and reactions to pollen
Includes content from current Unit 4 Area of
Study 1 related to molecular genetics, gene
expression and gene regulation
Unit 3
Area of Study 2
Current content from Unit 3
Area of Study 2 (Detecting and
responding) includes:
 coordination and
regulation at the cellular
level
 the role of the human
immune system in
detecting and responding
to antigens
How do cells communicate?
Topics
 cellular signals
 apoptosis and consequences of
malfunction
 antigens
 antibiotics and antiviral agents
 immunity
Similar to current Unit 3 Area of Study 2
content:
 new inclusion of the use of monoclonal
antibodies in treating cancer
 new inclusion of the use of antiviral agents
as illustrated by the action of interferon
 deficiencies and malfunctions of the
immune system are considered through the
specific examples of multiple sclerosis, HIV
and reactions to pollen
©VCAA, August 2014
5
VCE BIOLOGY
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES
Section
Current study design
Proposal for revised study design
Unit 4
Area of Study 1
Current content from Unit 4
Area of Study 1 (Heredity)
includes:
 cell reproduction
 molecular genetics
 DNA tools and techniques
 inheritance
How are species related?
Topics:
 changes in the genetic makeup of a
population
 changes in biodiversity over time
 determining relatedness between species
 human change over time
Similar to current Unit 4 Area of Study 2 in
terms of inclusion of the qualitative treatment
of changing allele frequencies in a population,
evidence for biological evolution, determination
of evolutionary relationships, patterns of
biological change and hominin evolution.
Unit 4
Area of Study 2
Unit 4
Area of Study 3
©VCAA, August 2014
Current content from Unit 4
Area of Study 2 (Change over
time) includes:
 qualitative treatment of
changing allele frequencies
 evidence for biological
evolution
 evolutionary relationships
 patterns of biological
change
 hominin evolution
 human intervention in
evolutionary processes
How do humans impact on biological
processes?
Topics
 DNA manipulation
 interrelationship between science and
society
Not included
Practical investigation related to biological
change involving cellular processes and/or
changes to life forms over time
 new area of study with a skills focus
 investigation question relates to content in
Units 3 and/or 4
 student designed and conducted
 results presented as a scientific poster
 may be undertaken in either Unit 3, Unit 4
or across both Units 3 and 4
Includes content from current Unit 4 Area of
Study 1 related to the application of DNA tools
and techniques.
Includes content from current Unit 4 Area of
Study 2 related to human intervention in
evolutionary processes, but expanded to
include use of genetically modified and
transgenic organisms, the emergence of highly
resistant bacteria and the challenges
presented by pandemics and epidemics
6
VCE BIOLOGY
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES
Section
Current study design
Proposal for revised study design
Units 3 and/or 4
scientific poster
template
Not included
Scientific poster template provided which
includes identified sections and suggested
marking scheme
Practical logbook
Practical logbook not
mandated
Students are required to maintain a practical
logbook for record, authentication and
assessment purposes
Units 3 and 4
School-assessed
Coursework
School-assessed
Coursework is evenly
weighted across four
outcomes
Proposed School-assessed Coursework is
equally weighted across 5 outcomes
©VCAA, August 2014
7
VCE BIOLOGY
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES
ASSESSMENT
Units 1 and 2
Assessment tasks are similar although some have been updated to reflect current assessment
practice and the nature of the discipline. Fieldwork is appropriately included in Unit 1 of the
proposed study design whilst it was an appropriate inclusion in Unit 2 of the current study
design. There is also provision in the proposed study design for reduction in the number of
assessment tasks to be undertaken by students.
Current Unit 1 assessment tasks
Proposed Unit 1 assessment tasks
Assessment tasks for this unit are:
For Outcome 1:
 a student-designed and/or adapted
and/or extended practical investigation;
And
For Outcomes 1 and 2:
at least three from the following:
 practical activities or investigations
 multimedia presentation
 media response
 oral presentation
 annotated poster
 data analysis
 problem solving
 test, multiple choice and/or short
answer and/or extended response.
For Outcomes 1 and 2:
A selection from the following:
 report of a fieldwork activity
 annotations of a practical work folio of
activities or investigations
 bioinformatics exercise
 media response
 data analysis
 problem solving involving biological
concepts , skills and/or issues
 reflective learning journal/blog related to
selected activities or in response to an
issue
 test comprising multiple choice and/or
short answer and/or extended response.
The assessment tasks may be written, oral or
multi-modal.
And
For Outcome 3:
 report of a student-designed and/or
adapted investigation related to the
survival of an organism or species using
an appropriate format, for example, a
scientific poster, practical report, oral
communication or digital presentation.
©VCAA, August 2014
8
VCE BIOLOGY
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES
Current Unit 2 assessment tasks
Proposed Unit 2 assessment tasks
Assessment tasks for this unit are:
For Outcome 1:
at least three of the following:
 practical activities
 multimedia or web page presentation
 response to a media article
 oral presentation
 annotated poster
 data analysis
 test, multiple choice and/or short
answer and/or extended response.
And
For Outcome 2:
 a written report on fieldwork (fieldwork
may include a study of habitat within or
outside the classroom).
For Outcomes 1 and 2:
A selection from the following:
 report of a fieldwork activity
 annotations of a practical work folio of
activities or investigations
 bioinformatics exercise
 media response
 data analysis
 problem solving involving biological
concepts , skills and/or issues
 reflective learning journal/blog related to
selected activities or in response to an
issue
 test comprising multiple choice and/or
short answer and/or extended response.
The assessment tasks may be written, oral or
multi-modal.
And
For Outcome 3:
 report of an investigation into genetics
and/or reproductive science using an
appropriate format, for example, digital
presentation, oral communication, or
written report.
©VCAA, August 2014
9
VCE BIOLOGY
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES
Proposed Unit 3 Assessment
Compared with the Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework tasks in the current study design, it is proposed
that there is a reduction from three tasks to two mandated tasks, including greater flexibility in the choice
of tasks and an indication of time for the task.
Outcomes
Outcome 1
Explain the dynamic chemical
nature of the cell in terms of the
key molecules involved in
regulation, photosynthesis and
cellular respiration, and analyse
factors that affect the rate of
biochemical reactions.
Outcome 2
Apply a stimulus-response
model to explain how cells
communicate with each other,
outline human responses to
invading pathogens, distinguish
between the different ways that
immunity may be acquired, and
discuss how malfunctions of the
immune system cause disease.
Total marks
Marks allocated*
Assessment tasks
30
Reflection related to at least two
practical activities from a practical
logbook on the impact of
changed cellular environments
on cell function
(approximately 50 minutes)
30
At least one task selected from:
 report of a fieldwork activity
 annotations of a practical
work folio of activities or
investigations
 bioinformatics exercise
 evaluation of research
 media response
 data analysis
 problem solving involving
biological concepts , skills
and/or issues
 reflective learning journal/blog
related to selected activities
or in response to an issue
The assessment tasks may be
written or multi-modal.
(approximately 50 minutes)
60
*School-assessed Coursework for Unit 3 contributes 16 per cent to the study score.
©VCAA, August 2014
10
VCE BIOLOGY
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED CHANGES
Proposed Unit 4 Assessment
Compared with the Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework tasks in the current study design, it is
proposed that there is a reduction from three tasks to two mandated tasks. The Outcome 3 task
may be undertaken in Unit 3, Unit 4, or across Unit 3 and Unit 4, but will be reported as part of
Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework. A template has been constructed for production of the
scientific poster to assist in staged completion and authentication of student work.
Outcomes
Outcome 1
Analyse evidence for
evolutionary change, explain
how relatedness between
species is determined, and
discuss the consequences of
biological change in human
evolution.
Outcome 2
Describe and use tools and
techniques to manipulate DNA,
explain how biological
knowledge is applied to
biotechnical applications, and
analyse interactions between
scientific knowledge and its
applications in society.
Outcome 3
Design and undertake an
investigation related to biological
change or continuity, and
present methodologies, findings
and conclusions as a scientific
poster.
Total marks
Marks allocated*
30
30
30
Assessment tasks
An oral or a written report that
demonstrates evolutionary
relationships using primary or
secondary data
(approximately 50 minutes)
Response to an issue related to
DNA applications
OR
Report of a laboratory
investigation involving the
manipulation of DNA
The assessment tasks may be
written or multi-modal.
(approximately 50 minutes)
Structured scientific poster
according to VCAA template
(not exceeding 1000 words)
90
*School-assessed Coursework for Unit 4 contributes 24 per cent to the study score.
©VCAA, August 2014
11
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VCE BIOLOGY Summary of proposed changes to the study design