Psychology VCE: Student directed research investigation

Subject Area: VCE Psychology
Author: Mengjie Li, Sophie O'Shea, Oliver Packard, Stephanie Tilley


Students are to “apply and extend their knowledge and skills to investigate a question related to brain function and/or psychological development”. Students will choose a specific question from the list in the study design or one of their own at the discretion of their teacher. Students will then “analyse the scientific evidence that underpins the research in response to a question of interest. They then communicate their findings of their research investigation and explain the psychological concepts, outline contemporary research and present conclusions based on the evidence.Their findings must be communicated in either research report or poster format of 1000 equivalent.


Curriculum links

Unit : Unit 1

Area of Study 3: Student-directed research   investigation

Outcome 2: Key  knowledge

  • “the characteristics of effective science communication: accuracy of psychological information; clarity of explanation of psychological concepts, ideas and models; contextual clarity in terms of importance and implications of findings; conciseness and coherence; and appropriateness for purpose and audience
  • The psychological concepts specific to the investigation:definitions of key terms; use of appropriate psychological terminology, conventions and representations
  • the use of data representations, models and theories in organising and explaining observed phenomena and psychological concepts, and their limitations
  • The nature of evidence and information: distinction between opinion, anecdote and evidence, weak and strong evidence, and scientific and nonscientific ideas; validity and reliability of data including sources of possible errors or bias
  • The influence of social, economic, cultural and ethical factors relevant to the selected psychological investigation. (VCAA, 2015)1”

 1 Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. (2015). Psychology: Victorian Certificate of Education Study Design. Retrieved Nov 1, 2016, from

Procedural Properties

Purpose What was the purpose of this assessment?

The purpose of this assessment was to assess students’ progress against VCE Psychology Unit 1, Area of Study 3, ‘Student-directed research investigation.’ It formed a SAC that will allow this AOS to be formally  assessed.


As outlined in the study design, the purpose of this AOS is for students to ‘apply and extend their knowledge and skills developed in Areas of Study 1 and/or 2 to investigate a question related to brain function and/or psychological development.’ In this sense, the assessment allows teachers to assess students’ knowledge and skills of topics studied in AOS 1 and 2, as well as their scientific literacy and report writing skills.

Administer How was the assessment administered (conditions, time, individual/group, access to resources, assistance to students,  etc.)?

Students were to work on the assessment individually, choosing a topic of interest from the list in the study design or a topic of interest as agreed upon by the teacher. They were given six lessons of class time dedicated to working on their research reports (this is as per the suggested 3.5-5 hours of class time suggested in the study design). Students were scaffolded through the sections of the report (introduction, research, discussion etc) each lesson to ensure students were using their time effectively and addressing all of the criteria. Teacher would check in with the students regularly throughout these lessons. Students were welcome to also work on their reports at home, however the class time provided would be more than adequate to complete the   task.

Record What records were kept from assessment (mark in markbook, added to student portfolio, etc.)?


The mark for this assessment formed the students’ grades for AOS 3. This was taken into account when teachers assessed whether students received an S or N for this unit. Marks were recorded on a spreadsheet of students’ marks for the entire    unit.
Interpret How was this assessment evidence interpreted for each student (mark, grade, list of skills to teach next, curriculum level,  etc.)?

Students were given a mark as a percentage, but were encouraged to pay attention to the comments they were given and use these to create a personal goal or set of goals for the next research task they will complete in VCE   Psychology.

Because this research report is the first of many students will be required to do, the  evidence from this assessment formed important data that will help teachers discover student ZPDs for the skills involved in research reports, so they can target their teaching in the future.

Use How has the assessment and its interpretation been used (reporting, feedback to students to inform future teaching,  etc.)?

As above, the assessment is used  for:

–          Forming part of formal reporting for Area of Study 3

–          To help students form future personal goals for research reports in Psychology

–          To help teacher discover student ZPDs to better target teaching of research report skills in Psychology.


Written Psychology research  report.

High Students at this level are typically able to generalise their findings of their research to broader contexts.
Medium Students at this level are typically able to use existing research evidence to support and explain their research findings.
Low Students at this level are typically able to recount their research findings in a   report.



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