CEN Paper – What Can the Study of Genetics Offer to Educators?

B0001854 DNA double helix

The history of genetics goes back to the 19th century when Darwin and Mendel first developed sophisticated notions of heritability. Since then, a tremendous amount of work has been done to further our understanding of heritability and the biological mechanisms and structures that drive it. Modern work in genetics can tell us about the heritability of traits which are important for learning. For a given trait, if we know it’s heritability we know the extent to which genetic factors can explain variation in the trait. Where genetic factors do not entirely explain differences in the expression of a particular trait, we can assume that environmental factors contribute to a corresponding degree.

This paper by CEN members Michael Thomas, Emma Meaburn and Andrew Tolmie, explores  what genetics research can tell us about the heritability of traits which are important for learning, and how this knowledge might might be helpful for educators, who have the power to affect the environment of learners.

Abstract: This article explores the potential contribution of modern genetic methods and findings to education. It is familiar to hear that the “gene” for this or that behavior has been discovered, or that certain skills are “highly heritable.” Can this help educators? To explore this, we describe the methods used to relate genetic variation to individual differences in high-level behaviors such as academic skills and educational achievement. These methods include twin studies and genome-wide association studies. We address the key question of what genetic data imply about the ability of educators to optimize educational outcomes for children across the range of abilities.

Read the paper here…

See Michael Thomas give the Learnus Annual Public Lecture on genetics and education.

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