Behavioural Genetics for Education

by Darya Gaysina

I am a co-editor (with Yulia Kovas and Sergei Malykh) of the book ‘Behavioural Genetics for Education’, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan last month (http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781137437310). This book is dedicated to the role of nature (genetics) and nurture (environment) in individual differences in traits important for education. Each chapter of the book explores a particular aspect of human development, including cognitive abilities and disabilities, academic achievement, motivation, personality, behavioural and emotional problems, social functioning, and well-being. The chapters are written by international experts in various areas of psychology and behavioural genetics; more than 20 researchers from the UK, Russia, USA, Canada, and China have contributed to the book.

The book brings together compelling evidence for the importance of genetics in cognitive development and other educationally relevant traits. It also emphasises the growing evidence for the complex interplay between genetic and environmental factors in relation to children’s behaviour. Indeed, genetic and environmental factors do not act in isolation; they co-act and influence each other across the lifespan. The book provides an important contribution to educational genomics, a relatively new scientific field that combines advances in quantitative and molecular genetic methodology in relation to education, with the ultimate goal to improve education for everyone.

I believe, this book is particularly timely. Despite all the existing evidence for individual differences in learning, genetics is rarely considered in relation to education. By taking into account what we know about the role of genetics (Nature), we can understand our environment (Nurture) better, and we can learn how to target our environment, including educational environment, so that every child could be given an opportunity to achieve the maximum of their potential. By considering genetic (i.e., DNA) differences among people, genetically informative research can provide the basis for evidence-based personalised (and therefore, more effective) education.Darya_book

Being a book editor was a new and educating experience for me (also influenced by my genetic make-up). What have I learnt about the process of creating and publishing a book? Quite a few things, I should say:

First, it takes time. Whatever you think it will take you, double (or triple) this estimate. It is important to realise that this work is something you do in addition to all other things, not instead of something, so be prepared to sacrifice a lot of your spare time and to work long hours and weekends.

Second, it is a collaborative work. Be wise about choosing people you want to work with. Our book would not be possible without our contributors; it would not be possible without them being prepared to invest their time and efforts in preparing chapters.

Finally, publisher plays an important role. Our publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, was very patient with us, and helped us a lot at a latter stage of the book preparation. They encouraged us during the preparation of the draft and sent reminders when we fell behind the schedule (quite often). They have also been working on promoting our book to a wider audience (i.e., researchers, educators, policy-makers, parents).

In conclusion, our experience is important in shaping who we are, but let’s not forget about our genes!

 

Darya Gaysina is Lecturer in Psychology and EDGE Lab Lead (http://www.sussex.ac.uk/psychology/edgelab/). You can follow the EDGE Lab on Twitter: @edge_lab

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