An experimental exploration of how text-based instruction in school biology affects belief in genetic essentialism of race in adolescent populations
- Even though human racial difference has been a longstanding topic of the school biology curriculum, there is little evidence that contemporary biology textbooks challenge stereotypical racial beliefs that are based in biological thinking. Rather, the modern biology curriculum may be a place where such beliefs about race are perpetuated unwittingly. Drawing upon a theoretical framework of racial conceptualization based in psychological essentialism, the first paper of my dissertation argues that biology textbook curricula ought to directly challenge problematic and unscientific racial beliefs in order to increase understanding of human genetic variation and decrease racial beliefs associated with prejudice. Building on the arguments from the first chapter, the second chapter of my dissertation uses a double-blind field experiment to investigate the impact of textbook-based genetics learning on essentialist conceptions of race amongst adolescents. Students recruited for the study (N = 43) read either a racialized or a non-racialized textbook passage on human genetic diseases and completed a reading comprehension assessment. After a short distracting task, students responded to items in two different race conception instruments. Controlling for race, gender, age, prior race-conceptions, and reading comprehension, statistically significant effects were observed on both race conception instruments by treatment. Students in the racialized condition exhibited stronger essentialist conceptions of race than students in the non-racialized condition. Additionally, an exploratory analysis indicated that an understanding of Mendelian heredity moderated the observed treatment effects. The third chapter of my dissertation explores how racial terminology in the biology curriculum affects how adolescents explain and respond to the racial achievement gap in American education. Carried out in a public high school in the California Bay Area, students recruited for the study (N = 86) were randomly assigned to read either a racially framed or a nonracially framed textbook passage on genetic diseases as part of a unit on Mendelian genetics. Afterwards they responded to two instruments measuring belief in the biological/genetic basis of race and one measure that recorded their explanations of the racial achievement gap and their willingness to volunteer their free time to fix it. Results demonstrated that students in the racially framed condition exhibited significantly greater agreement in the genetic basis of racial difference than students in the nonracially framed condition. A content analysis of students' explanations of the achievement gap also demonstrated that a significantly greater proportion of students gave genetic explanations of the achievement gap in the racially framed condition compared to the other condition. Furthermore, students' prior beliefs about race interacted with the reading treatments to affect students' willingness to fix the racial achievement gap. The conclusion of my dissertation applies the concepts of ineliminable pluralism and psychological essentialism to outline the necessary subject matter knowledge that teachers should possess if they desire to: (i) increase student understanding of scientific research on genetic and behavioral variation in humans; and (ii) attenuate inegalitarian beliefs about race amongst students.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Stanford University, Graduate School of Education.
|Brown, Bryan Anthony
|Brown, Bryan Anthony
|Carlson, Janet F
|Carlson, Janet F
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the Graduate School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2016.
- © 2016 by Brian Matthew Donovan
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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