Using dialogues to explore genetics, ancestry, and race

Jonathan Beckwith, Kostia Bergman, Michael Carson, Tobias Doerr, Lisa Geller, Robin Pierce, Sheldon Krimsky, Carol Martin, Marina Santiago, Amy Vashlishan Murray, Celestine Warren, Chad Zichterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Teaching the topic of genetics in relationship to ancestry and race generates many questions, and requires a teaching strategy that encourages perspective-based exploration and discussion. We have developed a set of dialogues for discussing the complex science of genetics, ancestry, and race that is contextualized in real human interactions and that contends with the social and ethical implications of this science. This article provides some brief historical and scientific context for these dialogues, describes their development, and relates how we have used them in different ways to engage diverse groups of science learners. The dialogue series can be incorporated into classroom or informal science education settings. After listening to or performing the dialogues and participating in a discussion, students will: (1) recognize misunderstandings about the relationship between DNA and race; (2) describe how DNA testing services assign geographic ancestry; (3) explain how scientific findings have been used historically to promote institutionalized racism and the role personal biases can play in science; (4) identify situations in their own life that have affected their understanding of genetics and race; and (5) discuss the potential consequences of the racialization of medicine as well as other fallacies about the connection of science and race.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-537
Number of pages13
JournalThe American Biology Teacher
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


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