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Genetics & Education - EDU00038H

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  • Department: Education
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Kathryn Asbury
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

Students will develop a personal and evidence-based perspective on the genetics of education debate through close examination of behavioural genetic evidence regarding reading, maths, cognitive ability, psychopathology and home and classroom environments.


Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2021-22 to Summer Term 2021-22

Module aims

  • introduce students to debate about whether and how genetics should be taken into account in the planning and practice of education.

  • Provide sufficient background in the behavioural genetics of learning abilities and disabilities for students to develop an informed perspective.

  • Enable students to independently analyse a range of sources from behavioural genetics, psychology, politics and education, and to critically engage with the overlaps between these disciplines.

  • Enable students to engage with different forms of evidence and argument, reviewing their reliability, validity and significance to psychology in education.


Module learning outcomes

Subject Content

  • Knowledge and understanding of behavioural genetic principles and practices e.g. twin studies.

  • Knowledge and understanding of the heritability of learning abilities and disabilities.

  • Knowledge and understanding of the historical and political background to debates about genetics and education.

  • Critical examination of the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of behavioural genetics with regard to education.

  • Students will develop a personal and evidence-based perspective on the genetics of education debate through close examination of behavioural genetic evidence regarding reading, maths, cognitive ability, psychopathologyand home and classroom environments.


Academic and graduate skills

  • Developing an informed personal opinion on a controversial topic.

  • Effectively communicating a personal view, and the evidence underpinning it, in both written and oral form.

  • Identifying and engaging with a range of sources e.g. academic papers, media reports, policy documents and social media discussions, and critically evaluating their reliability, validity and relevance.

  • Analysing and critically evaluating the ways in which theories and data from different disciplines can inform each other and enhance understanding.

  • Working proactively and autonomously to select and manage information, and using this to engage effectively in debate.


Module content

A sample outline of week by week content (subject to change):


Spring Term


Week 2: Behavioural Genetics: The Rise and Fall of a Discipline

Week 3: Genetic and Environmental Determinism

Week 4: Twin and Adoption Methods

Week 5: Heritability and the Human Genome

Week 6: Genetic and Environmental Influences on Intelligence

Week 7: Genetic and Environmental Influences on Academic Achievement

Week 8: Genes, Environment and Developmental Psychopathology

Week 9: Environmental Influence and GE Interplay

Week 10: Big Questions


Summer Term


Week 1: The application of genetic research in schools

Week 2: Genetic research in the classroom

Week 3: Genetics and educational policies

Week 4: Genetics, Free Will and Education



Self-directed learning


Each class session will require students to do reading preparation and some follow up activities. The reading and follow up activities will often take several hours to complete so students should make sure that they have built in to their weekly schedule time to complete these tasks. As part of students’ studies, it is important that they embark on a process of self-directed learning in addition to the formal class meetings.



This module is supported by the Yorkshare Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The module is being taught in conjunction with the learning materials available on the VLE. The interactive nature of the materials will allow you to fully engage with the subject area and be in control of your learning and progress through the module.



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Written feedback on assignment report sheet and face-to- face feedback in supervisions. The feedback is returned to students in line with university policy. Please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information.

Indicative reading

Asbury, K. & Plomin, R. (2013). G is for Genes: The Impact of Genetics on Education and Achievement. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.



Asbury, K., Almeida, D., Hibel, J., Harlaar, N. & Plomin, R. (2008). Clones in the Classroom: A daily diary study of the nonshared environmental relationship between monozygotic twin differences in school experience and achievement. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 11 (6) 586.


Harris, J.R. (1999). The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way they Do. New York: Touchstone.


Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.