Search for Resources

The Ethical Considerations of Personal Genomics

Secondary

Description

This lesson plan explores some of the risks and benefits of gene-based medicine. Students look at concerns related to genetic testing and personal genome sequencing. Through videos and discussions students learn about existing technologies for genetic testing and therapy. They also explore matters such as the emotional consequences of genetic testing, discrimination, and privacy issues. In small groups, students discuss scenarios and then share and analyze related opinions and concerns.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The lesson plans encourage student critical thinking, values clarification, and articulating and defending a position

Strengths

The strength of the lesson

  • the questions raised by genetic reserach are ones that society will increasingly need to struggle with 
  • the materials provided by the lesson plan will help students better understand certain of the issues involved and begin to clarify their thinking on these issues

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The lesson plans may be used

  • in those course where science, technology and society is a central theme
  • in biology courses that include units on genetics
  • in religious and ethical studies course where value systems are studied
  • in courses on heath education

In most instances the lessons would be used as a concluding rather than introductory unit of study in the above instances.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 20-4 (Knowledge and Employability Science): Disease Defence and Human Health
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 30: Cell Division, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • British Columbia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Science 11: Evolution. Evolution occurs at the population level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Anatomy and Physiology 12: Gene expression, through protein synthesis, is an interaction between genes and the environment
        • Specialized Science 12: All members of a species have common characteristics that evolve over time
        • Specialized Science 12: Our evolving understanding of genetics has implications for health, society, and environment
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Current Topics in the Sciences 30S: Nature of Science and Technology
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology: Mechanisms of Inheritance
  • New Brunswick
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Science: Reproduction
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Genetic Continuity
        • Biology 122/121
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Reproduction
    • Grade 10
      • Step 3Select a subject
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 3201: Genetic Continuity
  • Northwest Territories
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 30: Cell Division, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 12: Genetic Continuity
  • Nunavut
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Cell Division, Genetics and Molecular Biology
        • Biology 30
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 11(College Prep.) Genetics
        • Biology 11(Univer.Prep.) Genetic Processes
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 12 (Univ. Prep.): Molecular Genetics
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science (Univ./College Prep.) Biotechnology
        • Science (Univ./College Prep.) Medical Technologies
        • Science (Workplace Preparation): Disease and Its Prevention
      • Technological Education
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Health Care (College Prep.) : Health Care,The Environment and Society
        • Health Care (Univ./College Prep.) Health Care, the Environment, and Society
        • Health Care: Support Services (Workplace Prep.) Health Care, the Environment & Society
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Science: Sustainability of Ecosytems
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 621A: Genetic Continuity
  • Saskatchewan
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 9: Life Science: Reproduction and Human Development
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Biology 30: Genetics and Biotechnology
  • Yukon Territory
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 11
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Science 11: Evolution. Evolution occurs at the population level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Biology
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Cell Biology
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Anatomy and Physiology 12: Gene expression, through protein synthesis, is an interaction between genes and the environment
        • Specialized Science 12: All members of a species have common characteristics that evolve over time
        • Specialized Science 12: Our evolving understanding of genetics has implications for health, society, and environment

Themes Addressed

  • Human Health & Environment (2)

    • Health Promotion
    • Quality of Life
  • Human Rights (1)

    • Gender Equality
  • Science and Technology (1)

    • Appropriate Technology

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

A series of videos supported by background essays, introduce advances made in personal genomics and identify the questions and issues that these possibilities give rise to. The perspectives presented by the individuals, the parents, and the scientists involved outline the competing considerations and the accompanying lesson plans challenge the students to think about these and articulate and defend their position on the issues raised. 

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

While not addressed directly, advances in personal genomics have economic considerations.Can the health system sustain the financial burden attached to the application of personal genomics? Are there significant savings in medical costs if we are able to reduce or eliminate certain medical conditions? Will the benefits be equally shared?

The lesson plans do point to the social implications - the possibility of genetic engineering and designer babies, the invasion of children's privacy, the option for sex selection, the possible discrimination against the disabled, the tendency to think of ourselves in genetic terms.

The environmental issues are somewhat more subtle but the implications of the genetic engineering of humans may be part of our larger discussion about the genetic engineering of plants and other animals and the impact on the larger environment. 

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Very Good

The essential focus of the lesson plan is to make students aware of the complex issues involved with personal genomics. Many of the discussion questions begin with "why", or "do you think", or "would you", or "how could" as recognition that the answers her are not simple or easy. This recognition of complexity is further strengthened by the final segment of the lesson plan in which students are asked to respond to a number of scenarios. 

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

One would not expect there to be an action component to this lesson plan. The aim is to raise student awareness of the advances being made in genomics and the implications of these advances. Students are asked to struggle with the ethical considerations and to try and sort out their own position on these issues and the values that underly their positon 

In time, the student may wish to promoting a particular position on these issues but that is beyond the scope of this lesson plan.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Very Good

In struggling with the questions raised by the lesson, students would be forced to think about how any position they might take reflects their value system. 

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Very Good

The human condition is central to the lesson. The student is introduced to people, both individually and collectively who are faced with profound challenges. In giving thought to each of these cases, the student response is likely to be a mix of the visceral, the emotional and the rational but hopefully infused with empathy and respect for those faced with these challenges.The 

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered
Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Very Good

Students will recognize that the people and situations that are the focus of the lesson plan are representative of friends and family faced with the same challenges. The various scenarios outlined in the lesson are equally recognizable. These are real situations that raise real questions about how to respond. 

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Very Good

The subtext here is suffering and technology. Our response to this suffering in the past was limited by our knowledge and technology. Current medical technology has enlarged our possible response and future technology offers greater possibilities. The question, however, is to what degree we want to go down that road.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very Good

Background essays provide students with relevant information about advances in personal genomics.  Videos introduce the ethical considerations arising from these advances.  A series of case studies require students to evaluate the merits of particular ethical stances. Knowledge is provided and  issues are raised but positions are not taken. A series of discussion papers asks students to reflect on the merits of possible answers. 

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

The focus of the lesson is on critical thinking, which is common to all subjects or disciplines. The topics explored touch upon a number of subjects -science (advances in genomics), health (combating genetic diseases), social studies (impact and evaluation of technology), ethics and religious studies (sex selection, "genetic engineering") 

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

Students are provided with a series of intriguing questions related to the rightness or wrongness of the application of personal genomics. Materials (background essays, videos, case studies) are presented that allow students to better understand the complexity of the issues raised. A series of open questions  requires students to sort out their own perspectives on these questions.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Good

The combination of videos, background readings, case scenarios and guided discussion may be expected to engage students who represent a variety of leaarning styles.  

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good

The personal narratives that are included in the videos and the case studies outlined in the scenarios help students better understand the human dimensions of genetic advances and the ethical dilemmas attached thereto.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

The lesson plans assumes that the students will benefit from hearing the perspectives of others in the class and thefore the core of each lesson is the direction for class discussion on the issues raised by the material presented. Guided teacher discussion in this instance would appear to be preferable to small group discussion.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Good

The evaluation as presented in the lesson plans is of the formative variety. The guided discussion following each lesson would allow the teacher to assess the student understanding of the complexity of the issues addressed and to challenge the student, where required, to examine the assumptions behind the views expressed and the implications of a given view.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Good

If the class discussion serves to encourage student to examine and articulate their position on the implications of personal genomics, all students will benefit from hearing what their peers have to say. Such discussion helps students to clarify their positions and/or re-examine their perspective.   

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very Good

The final lesson presents students with a series of scenarios that serve to personalize the larger questions implicit in genetic research. 

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Poor/Not considered

The locus of control is the teacher who is provided with the material and the direction to help students understand the questions raised by genetic research. This is both the limitation and strength of the lesson plans. Once completed, other opportunities may be exploited to have students pursue related topics of interest with an appropriate grounding in place.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.