Practical and Ethical Considerations of Using Personal DNA Tests with Middle-School-Aged Learners

Elizabeth A. Wright, Jennifer K. Wagner, Mark D. Shriver, Jose R. Fernandez, Nina G. Jablonski

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Personalized genetic information is not widely utilized as a resource in learning environments, in part because of concerns about data privacy and the treatment of sensitive personal information. Here we describe the implementation of a curriculum centered on analyzing personalized genetic-ancestry test results during two-week science summer camps for middle-school-aged youth. Our research focused on how the examination of personalized DNA results affected learners’ subsequent perceptions and performance, as measured by in-camp pre- and post-tests and surveys, analysis of voluntary student talk captured by audio and video recordings, and periodic one-on-one post-camp follow-ups. The curriculum was grounded in Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and focused around the central question of “Who am I?” Campers approached this question via guided lessons designed to shed light on their genetic uniqueness, the many attributes of their genotype and phenotype shared with others, their more distant genetic and evolutionary ancestries, and their roles as active agents in the healthy continuation of their lives. Data relevant to these questions came from edited subsets of ancestry-informative single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and phenotype-related SNPs from the campers’ genotype results, which their parents had received from a direct-to-consumer vendor. Our approaches to data privacy and the discovery, disclosure, and discussion of sensitive information on paternity, carrier status, and ancestry can be usefully applied and modified for many educational contexts. On the basis of our pilot implementations, we recommend additional and expanded research on how to incorporate personalized genetic ancestry information in a variety of learning contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-202
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 7 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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