since the studies of Broca at the end of the nineteenth century, some
assumed that women were less intelligent than men because of their
smaller brain size. Here, knowledge (K = brain size) was interacting
with sexist values (V) and social practices (P). Of course, there is no
correlation between intelligence and size of brain (new K), and gender
equality is a citizenship value promoting more equality in social practices. Even if there are gender differences, such biological differences
cannot justify gender inequality in action.
Figure 2 illustrates another sexist KVP interaction: in several
countries, many biology teachers can justify by (outdated) biological reasons (K) that women should do more housekeeping than
men, knowledge linked with local social practices (P) that are
rooted in more or less sexist values (V).
The conceptions of the different actors within the educational
system can be analyzed as possible KVP interactions at all the levels
of the didactic transposition: learners’ conceptions, but also the conceptions of teachers; of authors of curricula, textbooks, and other
documents; and even the conceptions of researchers who published
the scientific references of the didactic transposition.
Considering Didactic Transposition Delay (DTD) in
Biology Education Research
DTD is defined as a measure of the delay between the publication
of a new scientific concept and its introduction in instruction (in
syllabi, curricula, or textbooks) (Quessada & Clément, 2007).
Not surprisingly, scientific knowledge is updated frequently, sometimes in substantial ways, but often what is taught changes only
slowly, with delays differing from one country to another. Therefore, the measure and interpretation of DTD could be an important
approach in studying the sociocultural and economic influence on
the content of taught biology across nations.
For instance, the issue of human origins has not yet been
included in the textbooks of some countries (such as Algeria) and
was recently suppressed in others (such as Lebanon). Important
new biological concepts such as epigenetics, cerebral epigenesis,
and transposons are not yet introduced in the secondary school curricula of several countries. There is also the challenge that ideas that
are taught may be partially outdated. For instance, in countries that
still refer to the “genetic program” and not yet “genetic information”
(Clément & Castéra, 2013), the choice of the word “program” may
be ideological, suggesting that all our traits, competences, and
performances are already written in our DNA. Consider an example
of a biological fact: In the 1970s the number of human genes was
estimated at 100 to 150,000, yet today this estimate is about
23,000. However, this new reality is not yet reflected in all biology
textbooks. Thus, DTD can be an interesting indicator of sociocul-
tural influences on what is taught in biology classes in each country.
With respect to the foundation discussed here, future research
questions might involve
• The development of international comparisons of biology education, and historical approaches in various countries to identify the influences of different sociocultural and economical
contexts (Once differences in the biology curriculum or way
of teaching are seen between one country and another, it is
important to try to understand how and why biology instruction differs in these cases.);
• The use of KVP to analyze the conceptions of the main actors of
the educational system related to each topic of biology, health,
or environment—conceptions of students and of teachers, as
well as identifiable conceptions inside curricula, syllabi, textbooks, and other resources; and
• The use of DTD to analyze the speed of changes within syllabi,
within textbooks, or even within teachers’ conceptions and to
suggest possible interpretations of the differences seen.
Empowering Students to Cope with
Scientific Innovations: Lessons from
Dirk Jan Boerwinkel and Arend Jan Waarlo, Utrecht University,
Biological research has not only changed our views of life, disease,
and behavior, but has also generated applications in many areas vital
to humans, including food production, medical diagnosis and ther-
apy, and forensics. The positive outcomes are many, but with these
have come important dilemmas. Consider, for example, whether we
should encourage or avoid using genetically modified organisms, or
whether we should use medication for children with behavioral prob-
lems. Socioscientific issues such as these cannot be addressed solely
through more biological research. Personal reflection and societal dia-
logue on these practices are needed to clarify the values and interests
at stake and to explore possible scenarios and regulations.
One justification for biology education is to support citizenship, with the aim of empowering students for decision making
by bringing both the findings of biology research and related implications into the classroom. Both the risks and benefits of recent
technologies and findings should be addressed, but also the so-called “soft impacts” (Boerwinkel, Swierstra and Waarlo, 2014).
In 2002, the Dutch government started funding the Netherlands
Genomics Initiative, channeling large funds for fundamental and
applied genomics research while including humanities and social science research and societal dialogue activities. Our institute and the
Cancer Genomics Centre collaborated in designing, implementing,
and studying genomics education and communication. Our educational output consisted of mobile DNA labs (van Mil et al., 2010),
teacher education workshops, teaching materials, and strategies for
discussing ethical dilemmas. Our research, which we offer as a model
Figure 2. In the KVP model, any conception (C) can be analyzed
as a possible interaction among the three poles of K (knowledge),
V (values), and P (social practices) (Clément, 2006, 2013).