Genetic Literacy and Problem-Based Learning

Part of the Explorations in the Learning Sciences, Instructional Systems and Performance Technologies book series (LSIS, volume 5)


The decoding and mass storage of the genetic codes of plants, humans, and animals along with the capacity to manipulate and track those codes has brought about a number of social and cultural shifts, the implications of which are just beginning to be understood. The application of this growing ability to decode, manipulate, and store genetic information has increased the need for all individuals to have some degree of genetic literacy to understand the implications of genetics in their lives. This chapter describes a project to create a cross-curricular computer simulation for middle school students in science, math, and social studies. The design team, including individuals from the College of Education and Human Ecology ( and the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD— at Ohio State University are collaborating with middle school teachers at a large urban school district and a small urban school district in Ohio to create a learning tool that has cultural relevance in traditionally underserved communities.


Middle School Genetic Information Social Study Middle School Student Genetic Knowledge 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Albanese, M., & Mitchell, S. (1993). Problem-based learning: A review of the literature on its outcomes and implementation issues. Academic Medicine, 68(1), 52–81.Google Scholar
  2. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). (2006). Project 2061 biology textbooks evaluation. Retrieved May 15, 2011, from
  3. Brickhouse, N. W., Lowery, P., & Schultz, K. (2000). What kind of a girl does science? The construction of school science identities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(5), 441–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Collins, F. S., & McKusick, V. A. (2001). Implications of the Human Genome Project for medical science. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 285(5), 540–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Crick, F. (1970). Central dogma of molecular biology. Nature, 227, 561–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dougherty, M. J. (2009). Closing the gap: Inverting the genetics curriculum to ensure an informed public. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 85, 6–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dula, A., Royal, C., & Secundy, M. G. (2003). The ethical and social implications of exploring african american genealogies. Developing World Bioethics, 3(2), 133–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Duncan, R., & Reiser, B. J. (2007). Reasoning across ontologically distinct levels: Students’ understandings of molecular genetics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(7), 938–959.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Duncan, R., Rogat, A., & Yarden, A. (2009). A learning progression for deepening students’ understandings of modern genetics across the 5th–10th grades. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(6), 655–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Haga, S. B. (2006). Teaching resources for genetics. Nature Reviews Genetics, 7, 223–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Harris, J. R. (2006). No two alike: Human nature and human individuality (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  12. Hiebert, J., Carpenter, T. P., Fennema, E., Fuson, K., Human, P., Murray, H., et al. (1996). Problem solving as a basis for reform in curriculum and instruction: The case of mathematics. Educational Researcher, 25(4), 12–21.Google Scholar
  13. Hillerich, R. L. (1976). Toward an Assessable Definition of Literacy. 65(2), 50–55.Google Scholar
  14. Jennings, B. (2004). Genetic literacy and animalship: Possibilities for deliberative democratic policymaking in science and medicine. The Good Society, 13(1), 38–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jong, T. D., & Joolingen, W. R. V. (1998). Scientific discovery learning with computer simulations of conceptual domains. Review of Educational Research, 68(2), 179–201.Google Scholar
  16. Kolsto, S. D. (2001). Scientific literacy for animalship: Tools for dealing with the science dimension of controversial socioscientific issues. Science Education, 85(3), 291–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  18. Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy export. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465–491.Google Scholar
  19. Lamarck, J.-B. (1963). Zoological philosophy: An exposition with regard to the natural history of animals. New York: Hafner Publishing Company.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lanie, A. D., Jayarantne, T. E., Sheldon, J. P., Kardia, S. L. R., Anderson, E. S., Feldbaum, M., & Petty, E. M. (2004). Exploring the public understanding of basic genetic concepts. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 13(4), 305–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lee, V. R. (2010). Adaptations and continuities in the use and design of visual representations in US middle school science textbooks. International Journal of Science Education, 32(8), 1099–1126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lewis, J. (2004). Traits, genes, particles and information: Re-visiting students’ understandings of genetics. International Journal of Science Education, 26(2), 195–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Macur, J. (2008). Born to run? Little ones get test for sports gene. Retrieved May 25, 2009, from
  24. Marbach-Ad, G., & Stavy, R. (2000). Students’ cellular and molecular explanations of genetics phenomena. Journal of Biological Education, 34(4), 200–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Markowitz, D. G., DuPré, M. J., Holt, S., Chen, S.-R., & Wischnowski, M. (2008). BEGIN Partnership: Using Problem-Based Learning to Teach Genetics and Bioethics. The American Biology Teacher, 70(7), 421–425.Google Scholar
  26. Molster, C., Charles, T., Samanek, A., & O’Leary, P. (2009). Australian study on public knowledge of human genetics and health. Public Health Genomics, 12, 84–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Moye, V. H., & Howard, D. L. (1998). Problem-based learning in social studies: Cues to culture and change. Arlington Heights, IL: SkyLight Training and Publishing.Google Scholar
  28. Parsons, E. C. (2008). Learning contexts, black cultural ethos, and the science achievement of African American students in an urban middle school. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45(6), 665–683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pinker, S. (2009, January 11). My genomic self. The New York Time Magazine.Google Scholar
  30. Rivet, A. E., & Krajcik, J. S. (2008). Contextualizing instruction: Leveraging students’ prior knowledge and experiences to foster understanding of middle school science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45(1), 79–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rotimi, C. N. (2003). Genetic ancestry tracing and the African American identity: A double-edged sword. Developing World Bioethics, 3(2), 151–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Stahl, L. (Writer). (2007). Roots. In S. Finkelstein (Producer), 60 Minutes. CBS.Google Scholar
  33. Stein, R. (2009). Blood samples raise questions of privacy. Washington Post. Retrieved from
  34. Stewart, J., Cartier, J. L., & Passmore, C. M. (2005). Developing understanding through model-based inquiry. In M. S. Donovan & J. D. Bransford (Eds.), How students learn: Science in the classroom (pp. 515–565). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  35. Sweller, J. (2006). The worked example effect and human cognition. Learning and Instruction, 16(2), 165–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Terry, S. F., & Davidson, M. E. (2000). Empowering the public to be informed consumers of genetic technologies and services. Community Genetics, 3(148–150).Google Scholar
  37. The National Middle School Association. (2009). Suporting students in their transition to middle school:A position paper jointly adopted by the National Middle School Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Retrieved September 1st, 2009, from
  38. Travis, J. (2009). Scientists decry “Flawed” and “Horrifying” nationality tests. Retrieved September 13, 2009, from
  39. Turkheimer, E. (2000). Three laws of behavior genetics and what they mean. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 160–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Venville, G., Gribble, S. J., & Donovan, J. (2005). An exploration of young children’s understandings of genetics concepts from ontological and epistemological perspectives. Science Education, 89(4).Google Scholar
  41. Wallace, J. (2007). Effects of interdisciplinary teaching team configuration upon the social bonding of middle school students. Research in Middle Level Education, 30(5), 1–18.Google Scholar
  42. Wasick, S. (2009). GINA makes genetic discrimination illegal in US. Retrieved November 1, 2009, from
  43. Yoon, S. (2008). Using memes and memetic processes to explain social and conceptual influences on student understanding about complex socio-scientific issues. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45(8), 900–921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

Personalised recommendations