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Geneticist - Educator Network of Alliances (GENA)

 

The Impact of GENA

 

How successful were the partnerships?

Success was defined as:

 

  1. the partnership completing its assignment to develop, implement, and evaluate a lesson plan;
  2. the geneticist receiving GENA certification; and
  3. the participants rating their partnership as highly or moderately effective.

 

According to these criteria, four-fifths (80%) of all GENA’s geneticist-teacher partnerships were successful. Geneticists and teachers reported that the following factors had a positive influence and contributed to a successful partnership:

 

  • Their own knowledge and skills (i.e., what they brought to the partnership);
  • Their partner’s knowledge and skills;
  • The attitude and commitment of both partners to the work;
  • Communication channels and abilities to communicate; and
  • Subjective factors such as personality and work styles.

 

Factors negatively influencing the partnership included:

 

  1. changes in work assignments, illness, or family responsibilities;
  2. competing professional responsibilities;
  3. working from a distance; and
  4. pressures on teachers not to supplement their curriculum with inquiry-based lessons.
     

 

The immediate impact on the participating geneticists

 

  • More than 85% of geneticists reported broadening their understanding of teaching genetics at the high school level;
  • More than 77% said that they became more skillful in identifying and providing appropriate instruction to counter students’ misconceptions;
  • The majority indicated a higher level of confidence in participating in educational outreach; and
  • The majority confirmed broadening their repertoire of pedagogical approaches.

 
For example, one geneticist reported: “I use questions in a more constructive way…and let students do more of the investigation.” Another said: “I’ve been getting the students more involved in inquiry-based learning instead of just standing there lecturing them. That’s not always popular with the students – some of them prefer just to sit there and listen.”
 

 

The immediate impact on the participating teachers

 

  • Seventy percent or more reported that they became more skillful in identifying and providing appropriate instruction to counter students’ misconceptions;
  • About half of Cohort I and II teachers – and over 90% of Cohort III teachers – indicated that they deepened their content understanding of genetics; and
  • The majority of all teachers broadened their repertoire of pedagogical approaches.

 

 

The long-term impact on the participating geneticists

The geneticists continued to apply their understandings and skills to their teaching, their careers, and their engagement in education outreach one to two years after their official partnership ended. Their actions constituted four types of longer-term impact. They:
 

  • Paid greater attention to addressing students’ or clients’ misconceptions about genetics;
  • Changed their teaching practice(s);
  • Increased their commitment to education outreach and continued to participate in education outreach; and
  • Revisited their research and/or career plans and directions.

 

Here’s what the geneticists had to say:
 

  • “I have become a better teacher. I have learned to identify misconceptions and build upon them to teach…complex concepts.”
  • “I now have two high school students doing research in my lab, and the students are great.”
  • “GENA made me take outreach seriously enough to apply for a GK-12 grant, which would make outreach a significant component of my research career.”

 

To answer its original question, through GENA, ASHG has clearly established that pairing geneticists and high school biology teachers can be a positive and mutually beneficial experience for both the scientist and the educator.
 

 

For more information on GENA, contact Dr. Michael Dougherty, Education Director for the American Society of Human Genetics at mdougherty@ashg.org.

 

More about GENA:

 

 

The American Society of Human Genetics, Incorporated

9650 Rockville Pike Bethesda, Maryland 20814

society@ashg.org 1-866-HUM-GENE (301) 634-7300

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