Original Publication
Open Access

Human Genetic Variation: A Flipped Classroom Exercise in Cultural Competency

Published: December 2, 2013 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9621

Included in this publication:

  • Population Genetics Facilitators Guide.pdf
  • Population Genetics Pre-Class Exercise Video.mp4
  • Population Genetics Interactive Case Discussion Post Myriad.pptx
  • Flipped Classroom Audience Response Results.pdf

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


Our understanding of human genetic variation has deepened through the Human Genome and International HapMap projects, which gave us a high-resolution view of human genetic variation and ancestry. Applying this knowledge to the evaluation of ancestry-based genetic testing strategies, such as direct-to-consumer genetic testing, is an important component of the practice of culturally component medicine and a clinically relevant way to teach the foundations of population genetics, including Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium.

The population genetics interactive case discussion was created to emphasize the clinical relevance of population genetics as applied to a required flipped classroom module in the first year Medical Genetics course for medical students at the Boston University School of Medicine. A “flipped classroom” is an innovative model of learning that inverts the traditional teaching model by delivering didactic content through educational technology prior to the traditional lecture time slot and focusing class time on active exercises and higher order concept mastery. These trends facilitate deeper learning of the material and allow students to have more control over their learning.

This exercise was first implemented in the required first year Medical Genetics course at Boston University School of Medicine in Spring 2013. The Office of Medical Education asked the 180 students to respond how strongly they agree with the following statement:

"The Population Genetics Interactive Case Discussion facilitated my learning of the material."
The result was 3.5 on a 5 point scale, with 5 being strongly agree.

The students were also asked:

"What feature(s) most influenced your level of interest in the Population Genetics interactive case discussion material"

Answers / Percent Answered:

Motivation to learn concepts important for exam / 60.87%
Motivation to learn concepts of clinical importance / 47.826%
Complex nature of the analysis / 21.739%
Interest in helping group get through task / 8.696%
Interest in applying genetic principles to culturally competent care / 21.739%

These data support the idea that the students were interested in the clinical implications of the data as well as the goal of cultural competence. This was echoed in the free text by a student who described this exercise as having "excellent clinical correlations."

Educational Objectives

  1. To illustrate how historical human migration patterns have contributed to genetic variation observed in modern populations.
  2. To differentiate between population subgroups defined by racial categories or geographic ancestry in terms of genetic variation.
  3. To use the principles of population genetics (e.g. founder effect, Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, selection pressure) to predict frequencies of alleles and genotypes in a given population.
  4. To evaluate the significance of identifying the presence of disease alleles on the health care system and on individuals acquiring this information directly, in the absence of the guidance of a health care professional.
  5. To assess the implications of evolving genetic testing technologies on yielding false negative results and the validity of the duty to re-contact concept.

Author Information

  • Shoumita Dasgupta, PhD: Boston University School of Medicine
  • Katherine Tuttle: Massachusetts General Hospital

None to report.

None to report.


Dasgupta S, Tuttle K. Human genetic variation: a flipped classroom exercise in cultural competency. MedEdPORTAL. 2013;9:9621. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9621