5 Engaging Methods to Teach Monogenic Disorders to Help Students Understand

Anjaney Kothari

Monogenic disorders, like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and Huntington disease, affect more than 70 million people worldwide. With each disorder arising from a mutation in a single gene, these diseases show a pattern of familial inheritance.

Understanding and diagnosing monogenic disorders thus requires the knowledge of genetics and inheritance, along with various complex laboratory techniques. To make monogenic disorders simpler for students, educators must come up with engaging teaching methods. Here, we list five engaging methods to teach monogenic disorders that will make this topic approachable for students.

1. Engage Students with Interactive Models

Methods that allow students to interact freely with the subject matter help build a stronger understanding of concepts. Plus, interactive models have the power to engross the students in both theoretical and practical aspects of complex scientific topics.

You can use a number of interactive methods to make monogenic disorders an engaging topic for your students. For example, provide your students with a fictional familial genetic background so they can perform a pedigree analysis. You can also engage them in a gel electrophoresis demonstration where they collaboratively contribute to the procedure at each step.

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Games and activities allow students to explore scientific concepts in realistic or hypothetical scenarios. This helps the students connect the topic to the real world and imparts a deeper meaning to the learning experience. Examples of effective educational games and activities include role-playing exercises, educational video games, and interactive quizzes.

You can employ some of these games and activities to make monogenic disorders a more engaging topic. Take Labster’s monogenic disorders simulation, for example. In our virtual lab, the students assume the role of a genetic counselor. The counselor’s patients, a young couple, are seeking advice about the possibility of their future children having cystic fibrosis. The students must virtually perform genetic tests and pedigree analysis to help out the young couple.

Sequence of an alele with a mutation.

3. Accelerate Learning by Incorporating Technology

Technologies, like simulation, animation, and interactive virtual reality, can teach complex techniques of experimental biology in a short time. Plus, these technologies help the students visualize the molecular mechanisms that underlie obscure biological phenomena.

For example, Labster’s monogenic disorders simulation, is an extensive, technology-assisted, 63-minute-long exercise. It covers everything from the basic concepts of inheritance to lab techniques like gel electrophoresis and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Students virtually perform gel electrophoresis to analyze samples, while being able to visualize how DNA molecules move along the gel. Similarly, the students complete all the steps of PCR for genetic analysis in a virtual lab. Thereafter, they determine if there is a mutation in the CFTR gene that could cause cystic fibrosis.

monogenic disorder virtual lab.
Discover Labster's Monogenic Disorders virtual lab today!

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

Knowing about the career opportunities that await them can inspire students to stay focused and persevere to learn a topic. Focus and perseverance, in turn, lead to enhanced learning and retention.

Try to connect the topic of monogenic disorders to the careers that it has nurtured over the years. For example, talk to your students about how clinical geneticists are developing gene therapies to treat monogenic disorders. Discuss how genetic counselors utilize their knowledge of monogenic disorders to advise couples about the health of their unborn children. Tell the students how experimental techniques like PCR and gel electrophoresis help countless biology professionals on a daily basis.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Scenarios

Supplementing lectures with some real-world scenarios can connect the students with reality and give them a reason to learn more. These scenarios tell them that there is a lot more that they can do to expand the subject and change the world.

For example, tell your students that there are more than 10,000 different types of monogenic disorders. Convey to them the sheer number of people who suffer from these disorders worldwide. Discuss how a large number of monogenic disorders are highly debilitating neurodegenerative diseases. These data will ground your students and motivate them to learn more.

Final thoughts

Monogenic disorders are interesting but unfortunate outcomes of genetic mutations and inheritance. The methods that we have discussed here allow you to make monogenic disorders an approachable topic of study for students.

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