The meaning secondary school students attribute to genome metaphors.
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The meaning secondary school students attribute to genome metaphors, the blueprint and recipe metaphor especially, was studied by conducting a quantitative survey among 148 students from upper secondary education. This quantitative study consists of a questionnaire and semantic a scale. Most students that participated in this study think about their genome during biology class (39%) and a great majority of students (77%) mention that they acquired their genomic image from school. Almost three quarters of the students think about genomic structure immediately after thinking about the genome. This could mean that high school education focus on genomic structure. When students have to choose between the recipe and blueprint metaphor, a majority (57%) preferred the blueprint metaphor. They perceived this metaphor as less variable, more fixed, more determined, more static and less active than they perceived the recipe metaphor. This deterministic view is consistent with the expectations of proponents of the recipe metaphor, who state that the blueprint metaphor emphasizes a deterministic genomic image by comparing the genome with a design that only has to be executed (Condit et al, 2002; Condit, 2004). The blueprint metaphor was declined, because it was perceived as too fixed, too uniform and unnatural. The students that evaluate the recipe metaphor as more suiting (11%) describe this metaphor as more complete, variable and original. This metaphor was also closer associated to small, personal, simple, friendly and change. On average, the students rate the recipe metaphor as less deterministic than the blueprint metaphor. This is consistent with the expectations of experts (Rothman et al, 1998; Hubbard and Wald, 1993; Condit & Condit, 2001). The students decline the recipe metaphor because of its randomness and simplicity. The deterministic view of students was also highlighted by the genome metaphors of the students. 65% named a deterministic genome metaphor, like a code, book/database, switch panel, manual or design. 14% named a materialistic genome metaphor, but perceived this metaphor as rather deterministic also. The remaining students produced a building bricks (13%) or community (8%) metaphor. Both metaphors were rated less deterministic and freer by the students. An emphasis on Mendelian genetics and human interference in Dutch genomic education could cause this deterministic genomic view among students. This could be corrected when genomic educators emphasize more on gene-environment interaction and epigenetics when using either metaphor. Education could counterbalance determinism by using an appropriate combination of metaphors.