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BIOL123 Cells and Tissues - the Fabric of Life

Unit rationale, description and aim

To be competent in their chosen profession, biomedical science graduates need to demonstrate thorough understanding of the morphology and function of cells and tissues and acquire core microscopy skills. This unit explores cells and tissues as the building blocks of the human body. Students examine the structure of human cells and tissues and develop an understanding of how structure fulfils function. Key topics include the plasma membrane and its role in cellular transport, structure and function of cellular organelles with a focus on cellular metabolism, and the role of the cell nucleus in protein synthesis and cell division. Students investigate the four basic types of animal tissue, and how they contribute to the physiological processes of the human body. This unit aims to form the foundation for other disciplines including biochemistry and pharmacology and is a pre-requisite for several later units.

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 structure and function of a typical eukaryotic cell and its main cell organelles (GA4, GA5)

LO2 - Compare and contrast the structure of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells (GA4, GA5)

LO3 - Describe specialisations of cells and discuss their significance in the organisation and function of the four elementary types of animal tissues (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO4 - Discuss the significance and mechanism of cell division and cell cycle (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO5 - Demonstrate correct biomedical laboratory techniques and awareness of appropriate workplace health and safety practices (GA5, GA10)

LO6 - Evaluate observations at cellular and tissue levels using evidence (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

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

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

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

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

  • Structure and function of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells
  • The molecular composition of cells
  • Cell nucleus and chromosomes
  • Membrane structure and function including transport and permeability
  • Cell metabolism
  • Cell growth, cell division and programmed cell death
  • Cell specialisation/differentiation
  • Structure and function of the four main tissue types of the human body
  • Principles of microscopy
  • Histological and laboratory techniques

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This is a specified unit in the Diploma in Biomedical Science. Lectures provide the content framework for active learning that takes place in small group classes through discussions that reinforce and extend the theoretical concepts covered. Practical activities provide experiential learning opportunities to help students acquire essential biomedical laboratory skills and cultivate scientific thinking and safe laboratory practices. The lectures are pre-recorded for flexible access before the practical classes. The practical activities include investigative research, experimental ‘wet’ labs, computer simulations, data collection and interpretation, and developing essential scientific communication skills. Regular class attendance is expected to ensure competency in foundational laboratory skills and in application of theoretical content.

Further to this, to ensure students are ready to transition from the Diploma and articulate into the second year of undergraduate study, transition pedagogies will be incorporated into the unit as the key point of differentiation from the standard unit. This focuses on an active and engaging approach to learning and teaching practices, and a scaffolded approach to the delivery of curriculum to enhance student learning in a supportive environment. This will ensure that students develop foundation level discipline-based knowledge, skills and attributes, and simultaneously the academic competencies required of students to succeed in this unit.

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.

The quizzes help to assess discipline knowledge and provide an opportunity for students to use their critical thinking skills. These quizzes aim to build confidence, increase motivation, enhance long-term retention of the acquired knowledge, and assist students' reflection on the learning material. The laboratory report assesses students’ development of critical thinking; data collection, presentation and interpretation, and written communication skills; and their ability to use technology for accessing and critically evaluating information. Report writing elements are scaffolded into small group teaching activities to provide opportunities for continuous feedback and skill development. The practical assessment allows students to demonstrate competency in essential laboratory skills and problem solving. 

Strategies aligned with transition pedagogies will be utilised to facilitate successful completion of the unit assessment tasks. For each assessment, there will be the incorporation of developmentally staged tasks with a focus on a progressive approach to learning. This will be achieved through activities, including regular feedback, particularly early in the unit of study to support their learning; strategies to develop and understand discipline-specific concepts and terminology; in-class practice tasks with integrated feedback; and greater peer-to-peer collaboration. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment 1: Quizzes

Quiz A

A quiz that requires students to demonstrate their understanding of foundational concepts.

Quiz B

Enables students to demonstrate their understanding of the theoretical component of the unit.

(45% in total)




LO1, LO2

LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Assessment 2: Laboratory Report

Requires students to evaluate data and demonstrate their written communication skills in a formal scientific report at an undergraduate level at an undergraduate level.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO5, LO6

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Assessment 3: Practical Assessment

Enables students to demonstrate (i) competence in essential laboratory skills and (ii) basic understanding of associated technical knowledge.


LO1, LO2, LO4, LO5, LO6

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Alberts, B., Bray, D., Hopkin, K., Johnson, A., Lewis, J., Raff, M., Roberts, K., & Walter, P. (2019). Essential cell biology (5th ed.). W. W. Norton & Company.

Ovalle, W. K., Nahirney, P. C., Netter, F. H., & Chovan, J. (2021). Netter’s essential histology with correlated histopathology (3rd ed.). Elsevier.

Tortora, G. J., Derrickson, B., Burkett, B., Peoples, G., Dye, D., Cooke, J., Diversi, T., McKean, M., Samalia, L., & Mellifont, R. (2019). Principles of Anatomy & Physiology (2nd Asia-Pacific ed.). Wiley. 

Urry, L. A., Meyers, N., Cain, M. L., Wasserman, S. A., Minorsky, P. V., Reece, J. B., & Campbell, N. A. (2018). Campbell Biology (11th ed. Australian and New Zealand version.). Pearson Education Australia.

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