Children's genes influence how well they take advantage of education

Feb 02, 2011

New research from the Twins Early Development Study at King's College London Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), published in PLoS ONE on February 2nd, shows that measures used to judge the effectiveness of schools are partly influenced by genetic factors in students.

The study, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), was conducted by scientists in the UK at the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King's IoP, and in the US at the University of New Mexico.

The assumption behind measures of school effectiveness is that changes in student performance over time must be explained by the quality of the school environment. So the quality of can be measured by the amount of improvement over time.

However, using data on school performance over time from 4000 pairs of twins from the Twins Early Development Study the researchers have shown that this and other approaches to assessing school quality do not measure the school environment alone. Perhaps unexpectedly, these measures are also substantially influenced by that bring to the classroom.

Dr. Claire Haworth, a lecturer at the King's IoP and lead author of the study said: "These findings do not mean that educational quality is unimportant, in fact environmental factors were just as important as genetic factors. However, these results do suggest that children bring characteristics to the classroom that influence how well they will take advantage of the quality.

She continues "Consider a classroom full of students being taught by the same teacher. Some children will improve more than other children, even though their educational experience at school is the same."

Future research will aim to identify which characteristics in the child allow them to gain more from their educational experience. High on the list of candidates are motivation, persistence, and self-control, all of which are already known to show genetic as well as environmental influence, and are likely to affect school learning.

This genetic perspective on education suggests moving away from thinking of children as passive recipients of knowledge in education to an active view of learning in which children select, modify and create their own education in part on the basis of their genetic propensities. The research supports the trend towards personalizing education to each child's individual strengths and weaknesses.

Explore further: You can't write a CV on a smartphone – digital literacy is no help to unemployed youth

More information: Haworth CMA, Asbury K, Dale PS, Plomin R (2011) Added Value Measures in Education Show Genetic as Well as Environmental Influence. PLoS ONE 6(2):e16006. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016006

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Feeling bad at work can be a good thing

6 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Research by the University of Liverpool suggests that, contrary to popular opinion, it can be good to feel bad at work, whilst feeling good in the workplace can also lead to negative outcomes.

3Qs: Citizen journalism in Ferguson

7 hours ago

Tensions have escalated in Ferguson, Missouri, following the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, by a white police officer. The incident has led to peaceful protests ...

Social inequality worsens in New Zealand

7 hours ago

Research by Dr Lisa Marriott, an associate professor in Victoria's School of Accounting and Commercial Law, and Dr Dalice Sim, Statistical Consultant in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, builds ...

User comments : 0