Human Genetic Variation
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Implementing the Module

The five activities in this module are designed to be taught either in sequence, as a supplement to your standard curriculum, or as individual activities that support or enhance your treatment of specific concepts in biology. The following pages offer general suggestions about using these materials in the classroom; you will find specific suggestions in the support material provided for each activity.

Goals for the Module

Human Genetic Variation is designed to help students develop the following major goals associated with biological literacy: (1) to understand a set of basic scientific principles related to human genetic variation, (2) to experience the process of inquiry and develop an enhanced understanding of the nature and methods of science, and (3) to recognize the role of science in society and the relationship between basic science and personal and public health.

Conceptual Organization of the Activities

We have organized the activities to form a conceptual whole that moves students from an introduction to human genetic variation (Alike, But Not the Same), to an investigation of its biological significance (The Meaning of Genetic Variation), to a discussion of some of the practical implications of human genetic variation for the treatment of disease (Molecular Medicine Comes of Age and Are You Susceptible?), and, finally, to a consideration of how understanding human genetic variation can affect the decisions we make about our own health (Making Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty). Figure 7 illustrates the sequence of major concepts addressed by the five activities.

Figure 7- Conceptual flow of the activities.
Activity Major Concept
Activity 1
Alike, But Not the Same
Humans share many basic characteristics, but there is a wide range of variation in human traits. Most human traits are multifactorial: They are influenced by multiple genes and environmental factors.
Activity 2
The Meaning of Genetic Variation
The ultimate source of genetic variation is differences in DNA sequences. Most of those genetic differences do not affect how individuals function. Some genetic variation, however, is associated with disease, and some improves the ability of the species to survive changes in the environment. Genetic variation, therefore, is the basis for evolution by natural selection.
Activity 3
Molecular Medicine Comes of Age
One of the benefits of understanding human genetic variation at a molecular level is its practical value for helping us understand and treat disease. The development of effective gene-based therapies is an exciting outcome of human genetic research. These therapies, however, are potentially many years away for many diseases.
Activity 4
Are You Susceptible?
Studying the genetic and environmental factors involved in multifactorial diseases will lead to increased diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of disease.
Activity 5
Making Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty
Our growing understanding of human genetic variation will allow us to identify genes that are associated with common diseases such as cancer. Genetic testing to identify individuals who have variations that make them susceptible to certain diseases can help people make decisions in uncertain circumstances and holds the prospect for more effective prevention and treatment. However, this capability also raises difficult questions that illustrate the personal and social implications of biological research.

Although we encourage you to use the activities in the sequence outlined in Figure 7, many of the activities can be taught individually, to replace or enhance a more traditional approach to the same or related content. Figure 8 provides recommendations for inserting the activities into a standard high school curriculum in biology.

Correlation to the National Science Education Standards

Human Genetic Variation supports teachers in their efforts to reform science education in the spirit of the National Research Council's 1996 National Science Education Standards (NSES). Figure 9 lists the specific content and teaching standards that this module primarily addresses.

Active, Collaborative, and Inquiry-Based Learning

The activities in this module are designed to offer students the opportunity to participate in active, collaborative, and inquiry-based learning in biology. But what do these terms mean? Despite their current popularity, many teachers think of active, collaborative, and inquiry-based learning rather generically. Defining these three key terms more specifically will provide a foundation on which we can build a detailed description of the instructional approach that the five activities in this module advocate and implement.

Figure 8 - Correlation between activities and standard curricula. The table indicates where topics addressed in the module are covered in a variety of current high school textbooks.
Topic Module Activity Biology Textbook** Chapter
1 2 3 4 5 DOL AEE LS Blue Green Human VL P & E Modern TLS
evolution and natural selection         18 29 12 16 9 2 10 12 15 10,11
ethical issues related
to genetic testing and screening
  15 9 13 8 11 essay,
12
10 12,13 7, 9 7, 9
human genetic variation
including genetic disorders
        15 26, 27 11 13 8 11 7 12 7 7
multifactorial traits 14 12, 13 8 11 7 12 6 6
**DOL = Biology: The Dynamics of Life (Glencoe)
AEE = Biology: An Everyday Experience (Glencoe)
LS = Biology: Living Systems (Glencoe)
Blue = BSCS Biology: A Molecular Approach (D.C. Heath and Co./McDougal-Littel)
Green = BSCS Biology: An Ecological Approach (Kendall/Hunt)
Human = BSCS Biology: A Human Approach (Kendall/Hunt)
VL = Biology: Visualizing Life (Holt, Rinehart, Winston)
P & E = Biology: Principles & Explorations (Holt, Rinehart, Winston)
Modern = Modern Biology (Holt, Rinehart, Winston)
TLS = Biology: The Living Science (Prentice Hall)

 

Figure 9 - Correlation to the National Science Education Standards.
The Content Standards
Standard A: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry and understandings about scientific inquiry. Correlation to Human Genetic Variation
. Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations. Activities 1, 2, and 3
. Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications. Activity 2
. Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence. Activities 2 and 3
. Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models. Activities 2 and 3
. Communicate and defend a scientific argument. Activity 3
. Understandings about scientific inquiry. Activities 2 and 3
Standard C: As a result of their activities in grades 9-12, all students Correlation to Human Genetic Variation
should develop understanding of the cell.
. Cells store and use information to guide their functions. Activities 2, 3, and 5
. Cells can differentiate, and complex multicellular organisms are formed as a highly organized arrangement of differentiated cells. Activities 2 and 5
should develop understanding of the molecular basis of heredity.
. In all organisms, the instructions for specifying the characteristics of the organism are carried in the DNA. Activities 2, 3, and 5
. Changes in DNA occur spontaneously at low rates. Activities 2, 3, and 5
should develop understanding of biological evolution.
. Species evolve over time. Activity 2
Standard E: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop abilities of technological design and understandings about science and technology. Correlation to Human Genetic Variation
. Scientists in different disciplines ask different questions, use different methods of investigation, and accept different types of evidence to support these explanations. Activity 3
. Science often advances with the introduction of new technologies. Activity 5
. Creativity, imagination, and a good knowledge base are all required in the work of science and engineering. Activities 1-5
. Science and technology are pursued for different purposes. Activity 5
Standard F: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of Correlation to Human Genetic Variation
. personal and community health. Activities 2, 3, 4, and 5
. natural and human-induced hazards. Activities 2, 3, 4, and 5
. science and technology in local, national, and global challenges. Activity 5
Standard G: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of Correlation to Human Genetic Variation
. science as a human endeavor. Activity 3
. nature of scientific knowledge. Activities 1-5
. historical perspectives. Activity 2

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