|Genome Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues
DOE Human Genome Program Contractor-Grantee Workshop
Debra L. Collins
Over the past few years, the Human Genome Project has increased our knowledge about human genetics dramatically. However, it is difficult to keep up with all the new technological advances. Secondary science and biology teachers have difficulty determining which new genetic advances need to be incorporated into their curriculum. As well, families, health care providers, and the general public need accurate human genetics information, and a background information to help them interprete all the new information in newspapers, television, and other media.
To help bridge the gap between the general public's background genetic knowledge and new genome technological advances, we designed a national education program for secondary science and biology teachers. Since approximately 95% of high school students take a biology class, these teachers' classrooms may provide the last formal science course before their students become parents, voters, legislators, policy makers, journalists, or others needing accurate genome information.
Over 5 years, 177 secondary teachers attended a series of human genome workshops focused on applications of human genome project technology, including ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI). The project required a two year committment of each teacher, who attended summer workshops, used new materials with students, conducted peer and community education programs, and contacted genetic and ELSI experts to enhance classroom experiences. Ongoing networks between teachers, liaisons with genetic professionals, and on-line computer communications continue to help educators and their students obtain current genome information.
Teachers participating in the project became more prepared and confident to teach complex genome technology and applications than their peers (p<.05). They expanded their knowledge of human genetics, and integrated more information into existing science curricula, increasing time devoted to teaching genetics. Teachers developed new school genetic courses, and advised district curricula development committees to increase human genetics course content.
Participants became better prepared to help students understand the ramifications of HGP discoveries and readily access information on many aspects of the Human Genome Project, including decisions regarding genetic testing. Their students scored significantly higher (p<.05) on a survey of knowledge, compared to students whose teachers did not attend the workshop.
Participants presented genetic programs to over 10,000 peers. Through this dissemination, more than 1,000,000 students were exposed to new genome information, resources, and applications.
Continued and increased support for teacher education workshops is needed to increase literacy on human genetic topics not available in current published textbooks.
Genetic resource materials, lesson plans, the mentor network, and career information are on the web site: http://www.kumc.edu/gec
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