Skip to main content
ELSIconversations 4: Exploring Difference in the Biology Classroom

Exploring Difference in the Biology Classroom: How to represent wide-ranging family structures and personal identities using the latest pedigree nomenclature


Co-Moderators: Marnie Gelbart, PhD (pgEd) & Robin Bowman, MEd (pgEd) 

Presenters: Ina Amarillo, PhD & Robin Bennett, MS, LGC, ScD Hon

Pedigrees are a widely used tool in medicine, research, and teaching. In the classroom, pedigrees are a helpful tool for students to learn about genetics and the various ways in which genetic traits can pass through families. Traditionally, what most people have learned about pedigrees in school is that squares are for males, circles are for females, and lines indicate connections between parents and children across generations. Family structures and personal identities are wide ranging and so, for many people, this nomenclature will fall short. For example, people who were adopted or conceived by donor sperm may grapple with how to accurately portray their family relationships. And people whose gender identity does not align with their sex assigned at birth may find these symbols inadequate. How can educators create an environment that is welcoming and inclusive for all students, while still being able to clearly convey genetic concepts?

Our program explores this question with two healthcare professionals who are experts in providing clinically and genetically meaningful information to their patients that is informed by and respectful of their personal identities and family structures. It includes an introduction to latest guidelines in pedigree nomenclature, terminology and best practices for talking about sex and gender in the biology classroom, and ample time for Q&A with the panelists. 

  • Note: Slide 22 in Dr. Bennett's slide deck seen in the recording is attributed to Lex Powers (they/them). 

Optional Reading: “Practice resource-focused revision: Standardized pedigree nomenclature update centered on sex and gender inclusivity: A practice resource of the National Society of Genetic Counselors

Please find the transcript, additional resources, and the presenters' slide decks in the upper right hand corner of this page.







Related Videos