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Evolution and the Classroom: How and I have no idea what

dfishervan's picture

Throughout class on Tuesday, pieces of the thesis on undergraduate science education that I wrote last semester kept creeping into my head. While my thesis steered clear of the sticky topic of evolution in the college classroom, I still found that people were asking similar questions that I asked myself last semester. One student even made a suggestion that I had offered in my thesis concerning how science should be taught. I am a strong advocate for utilizing the history of science as a tool for teaching science as it allows students to discover the creativity associated with the scientific process. Most importantly, the history of science shows students that science is not static and reassures them that there is still room for them to make a contribution to science field of their choice. For that reason, I feel that incorporating the history of science in a classroom familiarizes students with the way in which progress is achieved by evolution as suggested by Professor Grobstein: trying new things. By inviting students to make a contribution to our collective scientific knowledge, the history of science essentially encourages students to try something new. Most research that I found which advocated for the utilization of the history of science in a course argued that it would significantly improve the way students learned about evolution.

Of course, incorporating the history of science into the curriculum only addresses how to teach evolution and not what to teach about evolution. One can ask what should be taught about any topic included in an introductory biology class and debate the justification for incorporating this topic in the curriculum in the first place however, evolution tends to receive special attention due to the controversy surrounding it. When posing these questions for traditional introductory biology topics, students and teachers alike tend to argue that science courses need to familiarize students with the “basic building blocks” but, they often cannot define these building blocks. For evolution in particular, I think what is taught depends on the teacher’s perception of progress. Most teachers do not define progress as trying new things and don’t consider the possibility of learning from the different students that populate their class each year. Consequently, these teachers tend to present a more static, concrete version of evolution to the class (which I think some members of the class would argue defeats the whole purpose of teaching evolution).

 

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