Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 14, Issue 5–6, pp 437–457 | Cite as

Awareness of Societal Issues Among High School Biology Teachers Teaching Genetics

  • Reuven LazarowitzEmail author
  • Ilit Bloch


The purpose of this study was to investigate how aware high school biology teachers are of societal issues (values, moral, ethic, and legal issues) while teaching genetics, genetics engineering, molecular genetics, human heredity, and evolution. The study includes a short historical review of World War II atrocities during the Holocaust when scientists from all the above-mentioned disciplines had been involved in trying to support and develop the eugenics theories. It investigates pre- and postwar theories of the eugenics movement in the United States which were implemented successfully in Germany and a literature survey of the studies of societal issues related to these subjects. The sample consisted of 30 male and female biology teachers. Enclosed are teachers' answers in favor or against including debates about societal issues in their classrooms while teaching the disciplines mentioned above. Teachers' answers were analyzed in relation to three variables: years of teaching experience, gender, and religion faith. Data were collected from questionnaires and personal interviews and analyzed according to qualitative and quantitative methods. The results show that amongst the teachers there is a medium to low level of awareness of societal issues, while mainly emphasizing scientific subjects in preparation of matriculation examinations. The majority of the teachers do not include societal issues in their teaching, but if students raise these issues, teachers claimed to address them. No differences in teachers' opinions to societal issues were found in relation to gender or religious faith. Teachers with more years of teaching experience tend to teach with a more Science, Technology, and Society (STS) approach than novice teachers. The results are discussed in relation to teachers' professional development and teaching strategies are suggested to be used in their classrooms based on a STS approach, which includes the societal issues as a main goal.

Key Words

teaching genetics societal issues values moral ethics atrocities and holocaust eugenics theories 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Education in Technology and ScienceTechnion-Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael

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