Navigation Menu is only visible when JavaScript is enabled






Featured Chat Fridays


Trainee Paper Spotlight


Trainee Leadership Opportunities


Genetics & Education Fellowship


Genetics & Public Policy Fellowship


Epstein Trainee Awards


ASHG/FASEB Travel Award


Health Professionals

General Public




Geneticist - Educator Network of Alliances (GENA)



Background: Why GENA?


Genetics is not an easy subject.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveals a disturbingly large percentage of 12th-grade students who are deficient in their understanding of many biological concepts, including genetics (O’Sullivan et al., 2003; Table 1). Moreover, a two-year study by The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) identified widespread student misconceptions about genetics as revealed in essays submitted to ASHG’s annual National DNA Day Essay Contest (Shaw et al., 2008; Figure 1).



Figure 1. Prevalence of misconceptions by genetics topic. A total of 500 essays were chosen at random (20% of total submitted) and were systematically reviewed for misconceptions. Frequently observed topics of misconceptions were identified and essays were catalogued on the basis of the type(s) of misconception(s) they revealed.


Recruiting Scientists’ Help

The National Science Foundation and others believe that a broader learning community, including outreach by university scientists, could improve science education. However, colleges and universities tend not to value faculty participation in activities that do not yield published papers and grants. A three-year study by the University of Maryland, Change and Sustainability in Higher Education (CASHE), examined the effect of Math Science Partnership (MSP) programs on institutions of higher education (IHEs) with regard to curriculum, faculty engagement, and sustainable change. Among their findings:

  • Promotion systems at IHEs do not reward faculty participation in K-12 education.

  • Dean-level involvement is crucial to the success and sustainability of science faculty participation in schools.

The GENA Project

In response, the ASHG and the National Science Resources Center (NSRC) used genetics education to build a national framework of long-term collaborations between high school educators and scientists at IHEs and to support participating faculty in their efforts to achieve tenure and promotion. This project, the Geneticist-Educator Network of Alliances (GENA, EHR #0634296), was established with support from the Math Science Partnership program at the NSF.


More about GENA:


O’Sullivan, C. Y., Lauko, M.A., Grigg, W.S., Qian, J., and Zhang, J. (2003) The nation’s report card: Science 2000. National Center for Education Statistics.


Shapiro, N., Benson, S., Maloney, P., Frank, J., Abdi Dezfooli, N., Susskind, D., Muñoz, M. (2006, October). Report on Course and Curriculum Changes in Math and Science Partnership (MSP) Programs Change and Sustainability in Higher Education (CASHÉ). Paper presented at MSP Evaluation Summit II, Minneapolis, MN.


Shaw, K.R.M., Van Horne, K., Zhang, H., and Boughman, J. (2008). Essay contest reveals misconceptions of high school students in genetics content. GENETICS. 178, 1157-1168.


The American Society of Human Genetics, Incorporated

9650 Rockville Pike Bethesda, Maryland 20814 1-866-HUM-GENE (301) 634-7300

Privacy Policy