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


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.


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.



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.


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© 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

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