Friday, May 11, 2012

Giving Mendel the boot

This is a teaser for my opinion piece on how the teaching of genetics should be changed, which has now been accepted by PLoS Biology.  It should be out soon, so below I'm just going to put the title and the blurb:

"Why do we have to learn this stuff?"  
A new genetics for 21st century students.

Our students will go out into an astonishing new world of engineered genes and personal genomics, so why is the standard genetics syllabus stuck in the 1950s?


LMcDonnell said...

I'm very much in favour of exposing students to modern, relevant genetics. One thing I would be interested in doing is determining what background knowledge, in terms of classical genetics, do they need - or not need - to understand the complexities of modern genetics (such as SNP genotyping). Can students grasp how particular SNPs are associated with certain disorders without learning about linkage in a classical way? If they don't learn classical linkage (for example) what deficiencies do they have later on? There is a lot of great work that could be done with a course change such as the one you propose.
Having gone through the traditional courses in my own undergrad I felt unprepared to apply the classical information to the modern genetics I was encountering. Perhaps that is the biggest challenge - if some classical genetics is necesary to understand modern genetics students might struggle to make the link on their own, so perhaps we need to spend more time making that link explicit which ultimately means cutting some material out to put in the modern material and ensure there is time to make the links clear.
I think it's worthwhile not to just rethink what should be considered "fundamental" to a second year genetics course but to examine it by studying what students learn, how they use it (or don't) and how it contributes to them being scientifically literate people.

Heather said...

Has it come out yet? If so, would you kindly re-promote it here or on Twitter? I can't seem to find it yet over on PLoS Biology. Thank you and congratulations!