Advertisement

Science & Education

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 543–578 | Cite as

Hybrid Deterministic Views About Genes in Biology Textbooks: A Key Problem in Genetics Teaching

  • Vanessa Carvalho dos Santos
  • Leyla Mariane Joaquim
  • Charbel Niño El-HaniEmail author
Article

Abstract

A major source of difficulties in promoting students’ understanding of genetics lies in the presentation of gene concepts and models in an inconsistent and largely ahistorical manner, merely amalgamated in hybrid views, as if they constituted linear developments, instead of being built for different purposes and employed in specific contexts. In this paper, we report the results of a study about how textbooks can provide the grounds for the students’ construction of such hybrid views about genes. These views are a key problem in genetics teaching, because they make it more difficult that students properly understand this central biological concept and strengthen genetic deterministic ideas, which characterize a widespread discourse about genes in the public opinion. We analyzed 18 textbooks using categorical content analysis, employing categories derived from the literature addressing the historical development of gene models and concepts. Our findings indicate that the analyzed textbooks do convey hybrid views about genes, with no correspondence to scientific models related to this biological concept. These views reinforce genetic deterministic discourses and may lead students to serious misunderstandings about the nature of genes and their role in living systems, with consequences to future learning about genetics.

Keywords

Gene Concept Historical Model Genetic Determinism Genetic Teaching Biology Textbook 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the Coordination for Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) and the Bahia State Research Support Foundation (FAPESB) for graduate studies grants, and The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and FAPESB for financial support.

References

  1. Abrantes, P. (1999). Simulação e realidade (Simulation and reality). Revista Colombiana de Filosofía de la Ciencia, 1(1), 9–40.Google Scholar
  2. Abrougui, M., & Clément, P. (1996). Human genetics in French and Tunisian secondary school books: Presentation of a school books analysis method. In H. Bayerhuber & F. Brinkman (Eds.), What?—Why?—How? research of didaktik of biology (pp. 103–114). Kiel, Germany: IPN—Materialen.Google Scholar
  3. Adami, C. (2004). Information theory in molecular biology. Physics of Life Reviews, 1(1), 3–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Agorram, B., Clement, P., Selmaoui, S., Khzami, S., Chafik, J., & Chiadli, A. (2010). University students’ conceptions about the concept of gene: Interest of historical approach. US-China Education Review, 7(2), 9–15.Google Scholar
  5. Aubusson, P. J., Harrison, A. G., & Ritchie, S. M. (2005). Metaphor and analogy in science education. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  6. Ball, D. L., & Feiman-Nemser, S. (1988). Using textbooks and teachers’ guides: A dilemma for beginning teachers and teacher educators. Curriculum Inquiry, 18(4), 401–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Banet, E., & Ayuso, E. (2000). Teaching genetic at secondary school: A strategy for teaching about the location of inheritance information. Science Education, 84(3), 313–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Banet, E., & Ayuso, G. E. (2003). Teaching of biological inheritance and evolution of living beings in secondary school. International Journal of Science Education, 25(3), 373–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bardin, L. (2000). Análise de conteúdo (Content analysis). Lisboa, Portugal: Edições 70.Google Scholar
  10. Beltrán, I. B., Ramalho, B. L., Silva, I. P., & Campos, A. N. (2003). A seleção dos livros didáticos: Um saber necessário ao professor. O caso do ensino de Ciências (Textbook selection: A necessary knowledge for the teacher. The case of science education). Revista Iberoamericana de Educación, 25/04/03. http://www.rieoei.org/deloslectores/427Beltran.pdf. Accessed 8 December 2009.
  11. Benzer, S. (1957). The elementary units of heredity. In W. McElroy & B. Glass (Eds.), The chemical basis of heredity (pp. 70–93). Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bizzo, N. (1994). From Down House landlord to Brazilian high school students: What has happened to evolutionary knowledge on the way? Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31(5), 537–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Black, M. (1962). Models and metaphors: Studies in language and philosophy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Burian, R. M. (1985). On conceptual change in biology: The case of the gene. In D. J. Depew & B. H. Weber (Eds.), Evolution at a crossroads: The new biology and the new philosophy of science (pp. 21–24). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Campbell, N. A., & Reece, J. B. (2005). Biology (7th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  16. Carlson, A. E. (1966). The gene: A critical history. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders.Google Scholar
  17. Carlson, A. E. (1991). Defining the gene: An evolving concept. American Journal of Human Genetics, 49(2), 475–487.Google Scholar
  18. Cástera, J., Clément, P., Abrougui, M., et al. (2008). Genetic determinism in school textbooks: A comparative study among sixteen countries. Science Education International, 19(2), 163–184.Google Scholar
  19. Chattopadhyay, A. (2005). Understanding of genetic information in higher secondary students in Northeast India and the implications for genetics education. Cell Biology Education, 4(1), 97–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cho, H. M., Kahle, J. B., & Nordland, F. H. (1985). An investigation of high school biology textbooks as sources of misconceptions and difficulties in genetics and some suggestions for teaching genetics. Science Education, 69(5), 707–719.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Coll, R., France, B., & Taylor, I. (2005). The role of models and analogies in science education: Implications from research. International Journal of Science Education, 27, 183–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Danusso, L., Testa, I., & Vicentini, M. (2010). Improving prospective teachers’ knowledge about scientific models and modeling: Design and evaluation of a teacher education intervention. International Journal of Science Education, 32, 871–905.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dawkins, R. (1982). The extended phenotype. Oxford: L W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  24. Develaki, M. (2007). The model-based view of scientific theories and the structuring of school science programs. Science & Education, 16(7–8), 725–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Diehl, V., & Reese, D. D. (2010). Elaborated metaphors support viable inferences about difficult science concepts. Educational Psychology, 30, 771–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Durant, J., Hansen, A., & Bauer, M. (1999). Public understanding of the new genetics. In T. Marteau & M. Richards (Eds.), The troubled helix: Social and psychological implications of the new human genetics (pp. 235–248). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Dutra, L. H. (2009). Introdução à teoria da ciência. Florianópolis: UFSC.Google Scholar
  28. El-Hani, C. N. (2007). Between the cross and the sword: The crisis of the gene concept. Genetics and Molecular Biology, 30(2), 297–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. El-Hani, C. N., Queiroz, J., & Emmeche, C. (2006). A semiotic analysis of the genetic information system. Semiotica, 60(1–4), 1–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. El-Hani, C. N., Roque, N., & Rocha, P. B. (2007). Brazilian high school biology textbooks: Results from a national program. In Proceedings of the IOSTE international meeting on critical analysis of school science textbook (pp. 505–516). Hammamet, Tunisia: University of Tunis.Google Scholar
  31. El-Hani, C. N., Queiroz, J., & Emmeche, C. (2009). Genes, information, and semiosis. Tartu, Estonia: Tartu University Press, Tartu Semiotics Library.Google Scholar
  32. El-Hani, C. N., Roque, N., & Rocha, P. B. (in press). Livros didáticos de biologia do ensino médio: Resultados do PNLEM/2007 (High School Biology Textbooks: Results of PNLEM/2007). Educação em Revista.Google Scholar
  33. Falk, R. (1986). What is a gene? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 17(2), 133–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Falk, R. (2000). The gene—a concept in tension. In P. Beurton, R. Falk, & H.-J. Rheinberger (Eds.), The concept of the gene in development and evolution: Historical and epistemological perspectives (pp. 317–348). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Finley, F. N., Stewart, J., & Yarroch, W. L. (1982). Teachers’ perception of important and difficult science content: the report of a survey. Science Education, 66(4), 531–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Flodin, V. (2009). The necessity of making visible concepts with multiple meanings in science education: The use of the gene concept in a biology textbook. Science & Education, 18(1), 73–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Fogle, T. (1990). Are genes units of inheritance? Biology and Philosophy, 5(3), 349–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Forissier, T., & Clément, P. (2003). Teaching ‘biological identity’ as genome/environmental interaction. Journal of Biological Education, 37(2), 85–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Gayán, E., & García, P. E. (1997). Como escoger un libro de texto? Desarrollo de un instrumento para evaluar los libros de texto de ciencias experimentales (How to choose a textbook? Development of a tool to evaluate the experimental sciences textbooks). Enseñanza de las Ciencias (Número Extra, V Congresso), pp. 249–250.Google Scholar
  40. Gericke, N. M. (2008). Science versus school-scienceMultiple models in genetics: The depiction of gene function in upper secondary textbooks and its influence on students’ understanding. PhD Dissertation, Karlstad, Sweden: Karlstad University Studies.Google Scholar
  41. Gericke, N. M., & Hagberg, M. (2007a). Definition of historical models of gene function and their relation to students’ understandings of genetics. Science & Education, 16(7–8), 849–881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Gericke, N. M., & Hagberg, M. (2007b). The phenomenon of gene function in textbooks for upper secondary school in Sweden—a comparative analysis with historical models of gene function. In Proceedings of the IOSTE international meeting on critical analysis of school science textbooks (pp. 554–563). Hammamet, Tunisia: University of Tunis.Google Scholar
  43. Gericke, N. M., & Hagberg, M. (2010a). Conceptual incoherence as a result of the use of multiple historical models in school textbooks. Research in science Education, 40(4), 605–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Gericke, N. M., & Hagberg, M. (2010b). Conceptual variation in the depiction of gene function in upper secondary school textbooks. Science & Education, 19(10), 963–994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Gerstein, M. B., Bruce, C., Rozowsky, J. S., Zheng, D., Du, J., Korbel, J. O., et al. (2007). What is a gene, post-ENCODE? History and updated definition. Genome Research, 17(6), 669–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Gifford, F. (2000). Gene concepts and genetic concepts. In P. Beurton, R. Falk, & H.-J. Rheinberger (Eds.), The concept of the gene in development and evolution: Historical and epistemological perspectives (pp. 40–66). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Gilbert, J. K., & Boulter, C. (Eds.). (2000). Developing models in science education. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  48. Glynn, S. M. (1995). Conceptual bridges: Using analogies to explain scientific concepts. The Science Teacher, 62, 25–27.Google Scholar
  49. Grandy, R. E. (2003). What are models and why do we need them? Science & Education, 12(8), 773–777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Griffiths, P. E. (2001). Genetic information: A metaphor in search of a theory. Philosophy of Science, 68(3), 394–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Griffiths, P. E., & Neumann-Held, E. (1999). The many faces of the gene. BioScience, 49(8), 656–662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Hackling, M., & Treagust, D. (1984). Research data necessary for meaningful review of grade ten high school genetics curricula. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 21(2), 197–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Halloun, I. A. (2007). Mediated modeling in science education. Science & Education, 16, 653–697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Harrison, A. G., & Treagust, D. F. (2000). A typology of school science models. International Journal of Science Education, 22, 1011–1026.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Hesse, M. B. (1963). Models and analogies in science. London: Seed and Ward.Google Scholar
  56. Hoffmeyer, J., & Emmeche, C. (1991). Code-duality and the semiotics of nature. In M. Anderson & F. Merrell (Eds.), On semiotic modeling (pp. 117–166). Berlin, Germany: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  57. Jablonka, E. (2002). Information: Its interpretation, its inheritance, and its sharing. Philosophy of Science, 69(4), 578–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Jakobson, B., & Wickman, P.-O. (2007). Transformation through language use: Children’s spontaneous metaphors in elementary school science. Science & Education, 16, 267–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Johannsen, W. (1909). Elemente der exakten erblichkeitslehre. Jena, Germany: Gustav Fischer. http://caliban.mpiz-koeln.mpg.de/johannsen/elemente/johannsen_elemente_der_exakten_erblichkeitslehre_2.pdf. Accessed 27 July 2010.
  60. Johnstone, A. H., & Mahmoud, N. A. (1980). Isolating topics of high perceived difficulty in school biology. Journal of Biological Education, 14(2), 163–166.Google Scholar
  61. Justi, R., & Gilbert, J. K. (1999). History and philosophy of science through models: The case of chemical kinetics. Science & Education, 8, 287–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Kay, L. E. (2000). Who wrote the book of life? A history of the genetic code. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Keller, E. F. (2000). The century of the gene. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Keller, E. F. (2005). The century beyond the gene. Journal of Biosciences, 30(1), 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Keller, E. F., & Harel, D. (2007). Beyond the gene. PLoS One, 2(11), e1231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Kipnis, N. (1998). Theories as models in teaching physics. Science & Education, 7, 245–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Kipnis, N. (2005). Scientific analogies and their use in teaching science. Science & Education, 14, 199–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Kitcher, P. (1982). Genes. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 33(4), 337–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Kuhn, T. S. (1970/1996). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  70. LeCompte, M., & Goetz, J. (1982). Problems of reliability and validity in ethnographic research. Review of Educational Research, 52(1), 31–60.Google Scholar
  71. Leite, M. (2006). Retórica determinista no genoma humano (Deterministic rhetoric in the human genome). Scientiae Studia, 4(3), 421–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Leite, M. (2007). Promessas do genoma (Promises of the genome). São Paulo, SP: UNESP.Google Scholar
  73. Lewis, J. (2000). Genes, chromosomes, cell division and inheritance–do students see any relationship? International Journal of Science Education, 22(2), 177–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Lewis, J., & Kattmann, U. (2004). Traits, genes, particles and information: Re-visiting students’ understandings of genetics. International Journal of Science Education, 26(2), 195–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Lewis, J., Leach, J., & Wood-Robinson, C. (2000). All in the genes?–Young people’s understanding of the nature of genes. Journal of Biological Education, 34(2), 74–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Lewontin, R. C. (1983). The organism as the subject and object of evolution. Scientia, 118, 63–83.Google Scholar
  77. Lewontin, R. C. (2000). The triple helix: Gene, organism, and environment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  78. Marcelos, M. F., & Nagem, R. L. (2010). Comparative structural models of similarities and differences between vehicle and target in order to teach Darwinian evolution. Science & Education, 19, 599–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Martins, I. (2006). Analisando livros didáticos na perspectiva dos estudos do discurso: Compartilhando reflexões e sugerindo uma agenda para a pesquisa (Analyzing textbooks from the perspective of discourse studies: Sharing reflections and suggesting an agenda for research). Pro-Posições, 17(1), 117–136.Google Scholar
  80. Matthews, M. R. (2007). Models in science and science education: an introduction. Science & Education, 16(7–8), 647–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Mendel, G. J. (1865/1965) Experiments in plant hybridisation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  82. Morange, M. (2006). Post-genomics, between reduction and emergence. Synthese, 151, 355–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Mortimer, E. F., & Scott, P. H. (2003). Meaning making in secondary science classrooms. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  84. Mortimer, E. F., Scott, P., Amaral, E. R, & El-Hani, C. N. (2010). Modeling modes of thinking and speaking with conceptual profiles. In: S. D. J. Pena (Ed.). Themes in transdisciplinary research (pp. 105–139). Belo Horizonte, MG: UFMG.Google Scholar
  85. Moss, L. (2001). Deconstructing the gene and reconstructing molecular developmental systems. In S. Oyama, P. Griffiths, & R. Gray (Eds.), Cycles of contingency: Developmental systems and evolution (pp. 85–97). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  86. Moss, L. (2003). What genes can’t do. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  87. Nascimento, T. G., & Martins, I. (2005). O texto de genética no livro didático de ciências: Uma análise retórica crítica (The genetics text in the science textbook: A critical rhetoric analysis). Investigações em Ensino de Ciências, 10(2), 255–278.Google Scholar
  88. Neumann-Held, E. (1999). The gene is dead–long live the gene: Conceptualizing genes the constructionist way. In P. Koslowski (Ed.), Sociobiology and bioeconomics: The theory of evolution in biological and economic thinking (pp. 105–137). Berlin, Germany: Springer.Google Scholar
  89. Nijhout, H. F. (1990). Metaphors and the role of genes in development. BioEssays, 12, 441–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Oyama, S. (1985/2000). The ontogeny of information: Developmental systems and evolution (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  91. Oyama, S., Griffiths, P. E., & Gray, R. D. (Eds.). (2001). Cycles of contingency: Developmental systems and evolution. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  92. Pigliucci, M., & Boudry, M. (2010). Why machine-information metaphors are bad for science and science education. Science & Education. doi: 10.1007/s11191-010-9267-6.
  93. Pitombo, M. A., Almeida, A. R., & El-Hani, C. N. (2008). Gene concepts in higher education cell and molecular biology textbooks. Science Education International, 19(2), 219–234.Google Scholar
  94. Radford, A., & Bird-Stewart, J. A. (1982). Teaching genetics in schools. Journal of Biological Education, 16(3), 177–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Richards, M. P., & Ponder, M. (1996). Lay understanding of genetics: A test of hypothesis. Journal of Medical Genetics, 33(12), 1032–1036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Santos, V .C. (2008). Genes, Informação e Semiose: Do conhecimento de referência ao ensino de Biologia (Genes, Information and Semiosis: From the reference knowledge to Biology teaching). Master Dissertation, Universidade Federal da Bahia.Google Scholar
  97. Scherrer, K., & Jost, J. (2007a). The gene and the genon concept: A functional and information-theoretic analysis. Molecular System Biology, 3(1), 1–11.Google Scholar
  98. Scherrer, K., & Jost, J. (2007b). The gene and the genon concept: Coding versus regulation. A conceptual and information-theoretic analysis storage and expression in the light of modern molecular biology. Theory in Biosciences, 126(2–3), 65–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Shannon, C. E., & Weaver, W. (1949). The mathematical theory of communication. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  100. Smith, M. U., & Adkison, L. R. (2010). Updating the model definition of the gene in the modern genomic era with implications for instruction. Science & Education, 19(1), 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Smolicz, J. J., & Nunan, E. E. (1975). The philosophical and sociological foundations of science education: The demythologizing of school science. Studies in Science Education, 2(1), 101–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Stavy, R., & Tirosh, D. (1993). When analogy is perceived as such. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 30, 1229–1239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Sterelny, K., & Griffiths, P. E. (1999). Sex and death: An introduction to the philosophy of biology. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  104. Stewart, J. (1988). Potential learning outcomes from solving genetics problems: A typology of problems. Science Education, 72(2), 237–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Stewart, J., Hafner, R., & Dale, M. (1990). Students’ alternative views of meiosis. The American Biology Teacher, 52(4), 228–232.Google Scholar
  106. Stotz, K., Griffiths, P. E., & Knight, R. (2004). How biologists conceptualize genes: An empirical study. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 35(4), 647–673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Tolman, R. (1982). Difficulties in genetics problem solving. The American Biology Teacher, 44(9), 525–527.Google Scholar
  108. Treagust, D. F., Duit, R., Joslin, P., & Lindauer, I. (1992). Science teachers’ use of analogies: Observations from classroom practice. International Journal of Science Education, 14, 413–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  109. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological process. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  110. Watson, J. D., & Crick, F. C. (1953). A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid. Nature, 171, 737–738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  111. Weismann, A. (1893/2005). The germ-plasm: A theory of heredity. Boston, MA: Elibron Classics.Google Scholar
  112. Williams, G. C. (1966). Adaptation and natural selection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  113. Wood-Robinson, C. (1994). Young people’s ideas about inheritance and evolution. Studies in Science Education, 24(1), 29–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  114. Wood-Robinson, C., Lewis, J., & 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), 29–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  115. Xavier, M., Freire, A., & Moraes, M. (2006). A nova (moderna) biologia e a genética nos livros didáticos de ensino médio (The new (modern) biology and genetics in high school textbooks). Ciência & Educação, 12(3), 275–289.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vanessa Carvalho dos Santos
    • 1
  • Leyla Mariane Joaquim
    • 1
  • Charbel Niño El-Hani
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.History, Philosophy, and Biology Teaching Laboratory, Institute of BiologyFederal University of BahiaSalvadorBrazil
  2. 2.Department of General Biology, Institute of BiologyUniversidade Federal da BahiaSalvadorBrazil

Personalised recommendations