Young people's understanding of, and attitudes to, 'the new genetics'
- Start date: 1 October 1994
- End date: 31 October 1997
- Funder: Wellcome Trust
- Primary investigator: Dr Jenny Lewis
- Co-investigators: Rosalind Driver, Professor John Leach, Colin Wood-Robinson
The aim of this project was to provide a 'snap shot' of young people's understanding of and attitudes to gene technology as they came to the end of their compulsory science education. The purpose was twofold - to assess the impact of the national curriculum for science on levels of scientific literacy, using the context of genetics; to give some insight to the kinds of understandings which young people might draw upon in adult life when confronted with the social implications of gene technology. Two sets of data were collected, relating to:
- knowledge and understanding of genetics and gene technology;
- attitudes formed in response to issues arising from the use of gene technology.
The emphasis was on conceptual understanding, and on the ways in which students came to a view on social issues within a science context.
Over 600 young people, the majority of them aged 15-16, took part in the main study. The sample was drawn from 12 local authority comprehensive schools in the Yorkshire region of England and represented the full ability range within those schools. Most of the sample had completed the genetics component of the National Curriculum and all had covered the basic concepts. Data were collected in the form of written responses to written questions and transcribed audio-tapes of discussion tasks.
Analysis of the data showed that many of these young people had only a limited scientific understanding of basic genetic concepts and that misconceptions were common.
Preliminary data relating to attitudes confirmed that this level of understanding of basic concepts was a potential barrier to understanding more complex concepts relating to inheritance, gene technology and resulting issues and to the ability to engage in reasoned discussion of the these issues. However, if given very brief but carefully designed teaching interventions which addressed common misunderstandings and set basic concepts in context, the majority of these young people were able to engage with complex issues relating to gene technology and come to reasoned views which they could justify. The extent to which they could do this varied.
A series of working papers documenting the design, analysis and outcomes of this study, together with copyright-free materials for the use of teachers, was produced by the University of Leeds, Centre for Studies in Science and Mathematics Education:
LEACH, J., LEWIS, J., DRIVER, R., and WOOD-ROBINSON, C. (1996) Working Paper 5: Opinions on and attitudes towards genetic screening; A: Pre-natal screening (cystic fibrosis)
LEWIS, J., DRIVER, R., LEACH, J. and WOOD-ROBINSON, C. (1997) Working Paper 2: Understanding of basic genetics and DNA technology
LEWIS, J., LEACH, J. and WOOD-ROBINSON, C.(1999) Working Paper 4: Understanding the genetic basis of cells: the written probes
LEWIS, J., DRIVER, R., LEACH, J., and WOOD-ROBINSON, C. (1997) Working Paper 7: Opinions on and attitudes towards genetic engineering: acceptable limits; A: The discussion task
LEWIS, J., DRIVER, R., LEACH, J. and WOOD-ROBINSON, C. (1997) Understanding genetics: materials for investigating student's understanding, with some suggestions for their use in teaching.
WOOD-ROBINSON, C., LEWIS, J., DRIVER, R., and LEACH, J. (1996) Working Paper 1: Rationale, design and methodology
Other publications include:
LEWIS, J. and LEACH, J. (in press) Reasoning About Socio-Scientific Issues In The Science Classroom: the role of scientific knowledge International Journal of Science Education
LEWIS, J. and LEACH, J. (2004) 'Evaluating Classroom Discussion of Gene Technology - methodological issues and outcomes' in Gropengiesser, H., Janssen-Bartels, A. & Sander, E. (Eds.) Lehren fÃ¼rs Leben. Cologne: Aulis Verlag Deubner, pp 41-50
LEWIS, J. and KATTMAN, U. (2004) Traits, genes, particles and information - revisiting students' understandings of genetics International Journal of Science Education 26 (2) pp 195-206
LEWIS, J. (2001). Making the science relevant: classroom discussion of social issues with a science content, in H. Bayrhuber and U. Unterbruner (Eds) Lehren und Lernen im Biologieunterricht, Austrian Studien Verlag pp 107-119
WOOD-ROBINSON, C., LEWIS, J. and LEACH, J. (2000). Young people's understanding of the nature of genetic information in the cells of an organism. Journal of Biological Education, 35, (1), pp.29-36.
LEWIS, J., LEACH, J. and WOOD-ROBINSON, C. (2000). Chromosomes: the missing link - young people's understanding of mitosis, meiosis and fertilisation. Journal of Biological Education, 34,(4), pp.189-199.
LEWIS, J., LEACH, J. and WOOD-ROBINSON, C. (2000). What's in a cell? - Young people's understanding of the genetic relationship between cells, within an individual. Journal of Biological Education, 34, (3), pp.129-132.
LEWIS, J., LEACH, J. and WOOD-ROBINSON, C. (2000). All in the genes? - Young people's understanding of the nature of genes. Journal of Biological Education, 34, (2), pp.74-79.
LEWIS, J. and WOOD-ROBINSON, C. (2000). Genes, chromosomes, cell division and inheritance - do students see a relationship?International Journal of Science Education, 22, (2), pp.177-195.
LEWIS, J., LEACH, J. and WOOD-ROBINSON, C. (1999). Young people's attitudes toward gene technology: coming to a view on pre-natal screening, in Simonneaux, L. (Ed.) Les biotechnologies en dÃ©bat Ã l'Ã©cole - Formation Ã la citoyennetÃ©. Educagri Ã©ditions, pp.65-96.
LEWIS, J. and WOOD-ROBINSON, C.(1997). Genetics for life. Education in Science, No.175, pp.12-13.
WOOD-ROBINSON, C., LEWIS, J., LEACH, J., and DRIVER, R. (1997). Scientific literacy and the school curriculum: rationale, design and methodology for an investigation of young people's understanding of genetics and their opinions on and attitudes to, new gene technologies. Proceedings of the 5th Annual Conference of the South African Association for Research in Mathematics and Science (SAARMSE) Johannesburg, 23-26 January 1997.
WOOD-ROBINSON, C., LEWIS, J., LEACH, J., and DRIVER, R. (1997). Genetics, the school curriculum, and the public understanding of science, Journal of Science Education in Japan, 21, (3), pp.154-171 (in the Japanese language).
WOOD-ROBINSON, C., LEWIS, J., LEACH, J., and DRIVER, R. (1997). Genetics and scientific literacy: the results of a research project and their implications for the school curriculum and for teaching. Ensenanza de las Ciencias, 16, (1), pp.43-61.
LEWIS, J. and LEACH, J. (1996). Understanding the 'new' genetics - the role of school science, in Proceedings of the 1995 ASE INSET Services Annual Conference: Issues in science teaching, pp.46-53.