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BIOL121 Human Biological Science 1

Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Occupational therapists require knowledge of the brain to understand typical development and how impairment can impact a persons' functioning (e.g. cerebral palsy, stroke, acquired brain injury). In this unit you will be introduced to normal structures, functions and development of the nervous system. You will use this knowledge to understand how humans develop and the effects of nervous system dysfunction.

To further understand how humans develop occupational therapists need a sound knowledge of neurodevelopment and be able to make observations of skills and behaviours to identify and understand developmental concerns. You will study normal development of motor skills cognition, perception, social/emotional, play and language in children. You will observe children and analyse and interpret observations of task performance, developmental checklists and screening tools to evaluate development in relation to childhood occupation.

The aim of this unit is to introduce neuroscience and neurodevelopment concepts that you will need to work effectively with clients with central nervous system dysfunction, and to evaluate development in children.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Explain the normal structure and function of the central and peripheral nervous systems relevant to Occupational Therapy practice using correct terminology. (GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Predict how dysfunction of the nervous system can affect function; (GA5, GA8)

LO3 - Identify and describe normal development in neonates, infants and children; (GA5, GA8)

LO4 - Critically analyse and interpret developmental assessments and case history data in relation to childhood occupations; (GA8)

LO5 - Collaborate with class members to interpret clinical observations and effectively solve problems. (GA7, GA9).

Graduate attributes

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

Australian occupational therapy competency standards (AOTCS) 2018

Australian occupational therapy competency standards (AOTCS) 2018 developed within this unit are:

Standard/Attributes/CriteriaLearning Outcomes

Standard 1 - Professionalism 

An occupational therapist practises in an ethical, safe, lawful and accountable manner, supporting client health and wellbeing through occupation and consideration of the person and their environment

An occupational therapist:

1.1 complies with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia’s standards, guidelines and Code of conduct 

1.3 maintains professional boundaries in all client and professional relationships 

1.5 practises in a culturally responsive and culturally safe manner, with particular respect to culturally diverse client groups 

1.7 collaborates and consults ethically and responsibly for effective client-centred and interprofessional practice 

1.8 adheres to all work health and safety, and quality requirements for practice 

14. manages resources, time and workload accountably and effectively

LO4, LO5

Standard 2 - Knowledge and learning 

An occupational therapist’s knowledge, skills and behaviours in practice are informed by relevant and contemporary theory, practice knowledge and evidence, and are maintained and developed by ongoing professional development and learning.

An occupational therapist:  

2.1. applies current and evidence-informed knowledge of occupational therapy and other appropriate and relevant theory in practice.

2.2. Applies theory and frameworks of occupation to professional practice and decision-making.

LO1, LO2, LO3

Standard 3 - Occupational therapy process and practice 

An occupational therapist’s practice acknowledges the relationship between health, wellbeing and human occupation, and their practice is client-centred for individuals, groups, communities and populations. 

An occupational therapist:

3.1 Addresses occupational performance and participation of clients, identifying the enablers and barriers to engagement

3.2 Performs appropriate information gathering and assessment when identifying a client's status and functioning, strengths, occupational performance and goals

LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

Standard 4 - Communication 

Occupational therapists practise with open, responsive and appropriate communication to maximise the occupational performance and engagement of clients and relevant others. 

An occupational therapist:

4.2. Adapts written, verbal and non-verbal communication appropriate to the client and practice context



Topics will include:

Overview of central nervous system structure and function

  • Brain structure and function
  • Spinal cord structure and function
  • Motor systems and motor control
  • Overview of medical imaging
  • Blood supply of the brain

Normal nervous system development

  • Development of the brain and spinal cord
  • Neuroplasticity 

Somatosensory systems

  • Sensory perception
  • Visual cortex
  • Auditory cortex

Motor control systems

  • Brainstem
  • Basal ganglia 
  • Cerebellum 
  • Motor cortex

Normal development

  • Cognition
  • Language 
  • Motor
  • Play
  • Social/emotional
  • Perception
  • Vision
  • Developmental checklists and screening tools
  • Impact on occupational function and roles

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Teaching and learning strategies for this unit include lectures; tutorials; interactive practical sessions; and active learning such as case studies, reading/viewing material and self-directed learning. Lectures provide an opportunity to present relevant information in a structured framework and to demonstrate with practical examples. The practical sessions provide experiential learning with concrete activities related to neuroscience/ neurodevelopment and collaborative learning. The tutorials give an opportunity for application of information to complex scenarios, case studies and occupational therapy. Students are expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively within group activities, demonstrating respect for the individual as an independent learner. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. Such procedures include, but are not limited to: quizzes, reports and examinations. Students will be assessed on their ability to work both autonomously in quizzes and examinations and collaboratively with other students during the group child Observation written report. 

Quizzes will be used as both formative and summative assessment throughout the semester to allow students to demonstrate their understanding of key concepts and regularly identify gaps in their knowledge. They focus on students understanding of information, often in applied scenarios.

The child observation report is completed in pairs and focuses on typical development. It assesses student’s skills in observing and identifying typical child behaviours, and in engaging with children in an observational play situation. It develops student skills in collaborative problem-solving and in analysing, interpreting and reporting on child development within an occupational therapy framework.

The final examination will assess student’s knowledge of neuroscience and their capacity to apply this knowledge to case scenarios. This format allows students to demonstrate their understanding by explaining, predicting, describing and interpreting information and applied scenarios. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Quiz: Require students to understand, recall and retrieve key concepts.



GA5, GA8

Child Observation Report: Typical development. Conducted in student pairs. Require students to critically analyse and interpret information relevant to typical development, developmental assessment and childhood occupational performance.


LO3, LO4, LO5

GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

Written examination 2 hours: Requires students to demonstrate understanding by explaining, predicting, describing and interpreting information and applied case scenarios.

50% (must pass: require grade >50% to pass unit)

LO1, LO2

GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Case-Smith & J. O’Brien. (2015). Occupational therapy for children and adolescents (7th ed.). St Louis, MO: Elsevier. 

Cech, D.J. & Martin, S. (2012). Functional movement development across the lifespan (3rd Ed). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier. 

Cohen, H. (1999). Neuroscience for rehabilitation (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins. 

Cronin, A. & Mandich, M. (2016). Human development & performance throughout the lifespan (2nd ed.)Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. 

Henderson, A., & Pehoski, C. (2006). Hand function in the child: Foundations for remediation. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier. 

Lundy-Ekman, L. (2013). Neuroscience: Fundamentals for rehabilitation (4th ed.). St. Louis: Elsevier. 

Siegel, A., & Hreday, N. (2010). Essential neuroscience (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins. 

Sharma, A. & Cockerill, H. (2014). Mary Sheridan's From Birth to Five Years: Children's Developmental Progress. (4th ed.) Hoboken, NJ : Taylor and Francis. 

Snell, R (2012). Clinical Neuroanatomy for medical students.(4th ed). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins.

Young, P.A., Young, P.H., & Tolbert, D. (2008). Basic clinical neuroscience (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins.

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