Teaching genetics with STS: an innovative program to make students fit for post-truth debates
(Technical University Braunschweig)
Corinna Bath (Technische Universität Braunschweig)
Paper short abstract:
German students in biology often feel overwhelmed with debates on post-truth, as mechanisms of the knowledge production are usually not embedded in the curricula yet. This paper presents an undergraduate teaching concept to integrate STS in genetics including the evaluation of students' reactions.
Paper long abstract:
German students in biology follow up with the contemporary debates on fake news and post-truth raising questions regarding meaning, responsibility and applicability of science and technology. However, at least in the German context, they often feel overwhelmed or left alone with this pressing issue, as mechanisms of the knowledge production are usually not embedded in the curricula yet. To face this development, we started an innovative program in undergraduate teaching at the biology department of the Technical University Braunschweig in SS 2018. In the compulsory course 'basics of genetics' (lecture with tutorial), we systematically integrate STS in terms of content and didactics. The aim is to enhance students' capacity for recognizing that factual knowledge is not only made within science but is also the result of societal, political, cultural and other processes. In other words, students are supposed to be sensitized to perceive science in context. To achieve this, scientific investigations, experiments and findings are explained by illuminating the preconditions, forms and consequences of the knowledge generation. In this way, the students acquire reflective competences to identify and critically assess historical and cultural preconditions, interests and interactions of persons and institutions involved as well as societal consequences of scientific investigations while they learn fundamental knowledge in genetics. This paper presents our teaching concept, students' reactions to STS integration in genetics as well as the evaluation of students' reflexive competence regarding post-truth debates after class participation.
Teaching STS in an age of post-truth. Sharing challenges, approaches and experiences