VCE Biology: Stem cell media article response

Subject Area: VCE Biology
Author: Yui Fu, Aaron Lewicki, Lenita Engelke, Mitch Anderson


In this task, students choose one media article to investigate and write an extended response. In this response, students display your understanding of stem cells and cloning and how this relates to the science behind the chosen media article. Students will also research and discuss possible advantages and disadvantages with the technology and the potential ethical implications involved.

This task is situated within Unit 2 Area of Study 1 Outcome 1 of the Victorian Certificate of Education Biology Study Design, this task falls within the content of cellular growth and differentiation.

Curriculum links

VCE Biology; Unit 2 Area of Study 1 (VCAA Study Design for VCE Biology 2016-2021

Strand: Cell Growth and Differentiation


Procedural Properties


Purpose The purpose of the Media Response task is to encourage students to generate an informed response to a media article addressing the idea of stem cells. The task is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding of stem cells and the application of stem cells in society, as well as analyse and discuss implications and related ethical issues of its use. The task directly elicits evidence showing varying levels of cognitive thinking shown by the student.
Administer The measurable outcome of the assessment task is a handwritten report, including the written essay and reference list, that is collected at the end of the assessment period. The assessment was carried out in the first and second period on Wednesday morning, and students were advised of the assessment day two weeks prior.


Students are given two consecutive hours of class time to complete their written response; students work individually under test conditions. Students are permitted to bring writing implements, one handwritten A4 single sided sheet of got points and a reference list in harvard style. Each student is provided with lined A4 paper, and are able to request additional paper if necessary. Students are not permitted to bring electronic devices into the assessment.


To ensure evidence is authentic and relates to individual students’ abilities directly, students work individually on the task and submit a response. Students must complete the task within the provided time supervised time. The assessment is carried out in class and under teacher supervision to improve the accuracy of evidence and control noise.

Record Student work is collected at the end of the two-hour writing time and kept by the teacher until marked and ready for distribution. The given grades, student achievement and areas in which the student should work on are recorded in a digital mark-book. Cross marking of papers occurred with other teachers to reduce noise.
Interpret The evidence helps to identify the level at which individual students have grasped the concept of stem cells as well as determine their ability to evaluate and analyse the role of stem cells in our society. The assessment evidence recognises students demonstrating general science understanding and higher order thinking skills such as evaluation of stem cell uses and its implications. The evidence collected was adequately designed to determine the level at which students are working at, and the communication skills that require more scaffolding.
Use This was summative assessment for this unit and area of study, and feedback provided advises students in how they can improve their scientific communication skills. While the assessment focuses on stem cells in particular, the ability to communicate their understanding and ideas to a target audience using scientific language appropriately is a key skill set being assessed. Parents were advised of their outcome during parent/teacher interviews.


Low level (Insufficient evidence to Level A)
• Learning intentions
• Develop general scientific understanding of stem cells; including types of stem cells, sources of stem cells and how they can be applied • Experimental procedures
• Basic scientific knowledge; this includes understanding of the role of cells, cellular development and differentiation
• Structuring report for formal response
• Evidence of success
• Students produce a response that outlines aspects of stem cells at a superficial level
• Classroom organisation
• Students at this level would benefit most from differentiated tasks targeted at developing fundamental science skills and biological understanding.

Medium level (Level B to Level D)
• Learning intentions
• Develop an understanding of the functional application of stem cells and show an incorporation of ethical impacts and scientific research.
• Understand the importance of experimental procedures and the implications these procedures have on stem cell research
• Develop fundamental science literacy skills
• Evidence of success
• Students produce a response that compares and evaluates the properties and ethical implications of stems cells regarding their application to scientific/medical research
• Classroom organisation
• Students at this level would benefit most from analysing peer-reviewed sources to help develop a broader understanding of the different factors which influences scientific/medical application.

High level (Level E and Level F)
• Learning intentions
• Students can evaluate complex scientific concepts to construct their written response
• Students can debate advantages and disadvantages of stem cell use in society
• Evidence of success
• Student creates a structured response that synthesises core concepts into a justified response.
• Classroom organisation
• Students at this level would benefit from tasks that promotes discussion of ideas and opinions with peers and more knowledgeable others.


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