Empathy and Understanding

My students have been working through their latest #pbl in my honors Biology classes. We have been focusing on Mendelian and Non-Mendelian Genetics in class while they have independently been working on their human genetics disorder #pbl outside of class.

The project started with my students doing basic genetic disorder research on the most common human genetic disorders that genetic counselors will see. They were to pick 21 disorders to do very basic, introductory research on so that they could identify possible areas of interest for their PBL activity. From this research, they were asked to identify a disorder that they wanted to learn about in depth. Each student then worked independently to learn about their disorder and plan a presentation for their peers about this disorder. I gave them a detailed rubric of required content that I wanted them to research so that I knew they were going deeply enough into their research, but the way in which they presented to their peers was up to them. While most students will use powerpoint as their medium, I have had students use Prezi, create a digital storyboard, make a brochure, create a video with voiceover, etc…they never run out of creative ways to present information.

The #pbl aspect of this project came into play when I let the students know that they are going to function as genetic counselors who will be counseling their patients through a diagnosis of the disorder that they have each been researching independently. I explained that they will need to write a detailed letter to a family explaining that they have been diagnosed positively with this disorder and present to the family all of the necessary information and options that they will have. I also explained that this is where they need to pull in their emotional intelligence and work from a place of empathy and understanding. A large portion of the disorders researched were terminal and affected children, this is a challenge for them to be able to do in a professional and caring manner.

Dr Kelly Fulk - genetic counselor

I had a local genetic counselor come in to talk with my students about the process of diagnosing someone and counseling them through that diagnosis. The letter written by the students serves as their summative assessment for this unit.I really love this experience for the students and I always receive good feedback from them about the process and what they learn. To make this a true #pbl experience for my student, I am going to ask Dr. Fulk (pictured above) to have some of the counselors in her office review the letters that my students write and ask them to provide some valuable feedback on their writing and the process.

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