Molecular life science is one of the fastest-growing fields of scientific and technical innovation, and biotechnology has profound effects on many aspects of daily life, often with deep ethical dimensions. At the same time the content is inherently complex, highly abstract and deeply rooted in diverse disciplines ranging from “pure sciences,” such as maths, chemistry, and physics, through “applied sciences”, such as medicine and agriculture, to subjects that are traditionally within the remit of humanities, notably philosophy and ethics. Together these features pose diverse, important, and exciting challenges for tomorrow’s teachers and educational establishments.
With backgrounds in molecular life science research and secondary life science teaching, we (LT and CJR, respectively) bring different experiences, perspectives, concerns, and awareness of these issues. Taking the nature of the discipline as a starting point, we highlight important facets of molecular life science that are both characteristic of the domain and challenging for learning and education. Of these challenges we focus in most detail on content, reasoning difficulties, and communication issues. We also discuss implications for education research and teaching in the molecular life sciences.
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