Using human case studies to teach evolution in high school A.P. biology classrooms View Full Text


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Article Info

DATE

2018-12

AUTHORS

Briana Pobiner, Paul M. Beardsley, Constance M. Bertka, William A. Watson

ABSTRACT

While recent research indicates that using human examples can be an engaging way to teach core evolutionary concepts such as natural selection and phylogenetic thinking, teachers still face potential conflicts and challenges that arise from cultural barriers to teaching and learning about evolution. The “Teaching Evolution through Human Examples” (TEtHE) project developed (1) a set of four curriculum mini-units for advanced placement (A.P.) biology that use human examples to teach evolutionary principles (Adaptation to Altitude, Evolution of Human Skin Color, Malaria, and What Does It Mean To Be Human?), and (2) a cultural and religious sensitivity (CRS) teaching strategies resource that includes background materials and two in-class activities to help teachers create a classroom environment to increase student willingness to engage the topic. This paper reports on the development and field test of the TEtHE materials in A.P. biology classes in 10 schools in 8 states during the 2012–2013 school year using a design-based research framework (cf. Anderson and Shattuck in Educ Res 41:16–25, 2012). We chose A.P. classrooms to study the potential impacts of the materials in a “best case scenario” and analyzed data about understanding and acceptance of evolution from pre-post assessments in the 10 classrooms separately to mitigate potential validity concerns arising from the design (Anderson and Shattuck in Educ Res 41:16–25, 2012; Shadish et al. in Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2002). These data were treated as a secondary source of formative data to add additional perspective to teacher self-reports, observations, student and teacher questionnaires, teacher interviews, and student focus groups. Results indicate that the use of the three curriculum mini-units which focus on natural selection and the CRS classroom activities generally increased A.P. biology students’ understanding and acceptance of evolution. Students whose teachers used one of the CRS activities showed generally larger increases in understanding of evolution than those whose teachers did not use one of the CRS activities. Although the utility of using human examples to teach evolution in college-level classes has been demonstrated in a few previous studies, this is the first national project of which we are aware to systematically explore the effect of a similar approach in high school biology classes. While we recognize that the results may be mitigated by the limitations of design-based research, particularly the absence of a comparison or control group, the general effectiveness of this approach suggested by qualitative and quantitative data in increasing student understanding and acceptance of evolution suggests that using human examples and explicitly creating a classroom environment to help students engage the topic of evolution are worth considering for further development and more robust testing. More... »

PAGES

3

References to SciGraph publications

  • 2008-04. Changing Minds? Implications of Conceptual Change for Teaching and Learning about Biological Evolution in EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
  • 2015-08. Using a Constructed-Response Instrument to Explore the Effects of Item Position and Item Features on the Assessment of Students’ Written Scientific Explanations in RESEARCH IN SCIENCE EDUCATION
  • 2010-06. Current Status of Research in Teaching and Learning Evolution: I. Philosophical/Epistemological Issues in SCIENCE & EDUCATION
  • 2009-03. Assessment of Biology Majors’ Versus Nonmajors’ Views on Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design in EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
  • 2010-06. Getting to Darwin: Obstacles to Accepting Evolution by Natural Selection in SCIENCE & EDUCATION
  • 2008-09. Evolution as a controversial issue: a review of instructional approaches in SCIENCE & EDUCATION
  • 2011-12. Evolution and Medicine: An Inquiry-Based High School Curriculum Supplement in EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
  • 2007-10. Does Increasing Biology Teacher Knowledge of Evolution and the Nature of Science Lead to Greater Preference for the Teaching of Evolution in Schools? in JOURNAL OF SCIENCE TEACHER EDUCATION
  • 2010-12. Evolutionary Trees from the Tabloids and Beyond in EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
  • 2005-04. Intelligent design: Who has designs on your students' minds? in NATURE
  • 2010-06. Current Status of Research in Teaching and Learning Evolution: II. Pedagogical Issues in SCIENCE & EDUCATION
  • 2011-12. Why Don’t People Think Evolution Is True? Implications for Teaching, In and Out of the Classroom in EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
  • 2011-09. “Are Humans Evolving?” A Classroom Discussion to Change Student Misconceptions Regarding Natural Selection in EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
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    40 schema:description While recent research indicates that using human examples can be an engaging way to teach core evolutionary concepts such as natural selection and phylogenetic thinking, teachers still face potential conflicts and challenges that arise from cultural barriers to teaching and learning about evolution. The “Teaching Evolution through Human Examples” (TEtHE) project developed (1) a set of four curriculum mini-units for advanced placement (A.P.) biology that use human examples to teach evolutionary principles (Adaptation to Altitude, Evolution of Human Skin Color, Malaria, and What Does It Mean To Be Human?), and (2) a cultural and religious sensitivity (CRS) teaching strategies resource that includes background materials and two in-class activities to help teachers create a classroom environment to increase student willingness to engage the topic. This paper reports on the development and field test of the TEtHE materials in A.P. biology classes in 10 schools in 8 states during the 2012–2013 school year using a design-based research framework (cf. Anderson and Shattuck in Educ Res 41:16–25, 2012). We chose A.P. classrooms to study the potential impacts of the materials in a “best case scenario” and analyzed data about understanding and acceptance of evolution from pre-post assessments in the 10 classrooms separately to mitigate potential validity concerns arising from the design (Anderson and Shattuck in Educ Res 41:16–25, 2012; Shadish et al. in Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2002). These data were treated as a secondary source of formative data to add additional perspective to teacher self-reports, observations, student and teacher questionnaires, teacher interviews, and student focus groups. Results indicate that the use of the three curriculum mini-units which focus on natural selection and the CRS classroom activities generally increased A.P. biology students’ understanding and acceptance of evolution. Students whose teachers used one of the CRS activities showed generally larger increases in understanding of evolution than those whose teachers did not use one of the CRS activities. Although the utility of using human examples to teach evolution in college-level classes has been demonstrated in a few previous studies, this is the first national project of which we are aware to systematically explore the effect of a similar approach in high school biology classes. While we recognize that the results may be mitigated by the limitations of design-based research, particularly the absence of a comparison or control group, the general effectiveness of this approach suggested by qualitative and quantitative data in increasing student understanding and acceptance of evolution suggests that using human examples and explicitly creating a classroom environment to help students engage the topic of evolution are worth considering for further development and more robust testing.
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