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Peer Review




Overall Numeric Rating:

4.7 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.8 stars
Ease of Use: 4.3 starsstar
Reviewed: Mar 22, 2006 by Biology Editorial Board

This is the companion site to the eight-part PBS documentary on Evolution.
The site contains multimedia previews of each of the shows in the series as well
as interactive tutorials/exercises related to the theme of each show. The eight
themes are Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Great Transformations, Extinction!, The
Evolutionary Arms Race, Why Sex, The Mind's Big Bang, and What About God? In
addition, the site contains an "Evolution Library" containing many different
types of web-based materials that support the exploration of this topic. The
library is searchable as well as organized by topic for browsing. There is also
a link to a "Teachers and Students" section that provides a series of tutorial
lessons for teachers on how to approach the topic and a similar series for
students on how to learn about evolution. There is an assignment provided on how
to utilize the resources of the site. There is also a companion book to the
series that may be useful in classrooms: Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, by
Carl Zimmer.

Type of Material:

Tutorial and simulation.

Recommended Uses: There are a variety of uses for the materials and the activities of this site. It could be used to explore the entire issue, or portions could be used to address specific topics
Technical Requirements:

Current internet browser, Shockwave Flash, RealVideo, QuickTime

Identify Major Learning Goals:

The Evolution project's goals are to heighten understanding of evolution and
how it works, to dispel common misunderstandings, to illuminate why it is
relevant to our lives, to improve its teaching, to encourage a national
dialogue, and to prompt participation in all aspects of the project.

The section for teachers includes these learning goals:

  • Provide you with in-depth evolution content
  • Give you experience with an interesting variety of multimedia activities and
    resources you can use on your own or with your students
  • Build your knowledge about evolution through inquiry-based learning
  • Offer a variety of strategies for teaching about evolution
  • Provide rich multimedia examples of teaching and learning evolution to spark
    professional dialogue about science, inquiry, and teaching with your fellow
  • Help you reflect on your own teaching about evolution

Target Student Population:

Middle school through college undergraduates. It would be especially good for pre-service and in-service biology teachers. Also faculty teaching evolution for the first time would benefit from the materials on teaching the topic.

Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:


Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars

Quality of Content: (5.0, 5.0)

  • Video clips introduce each program theme.
  • Uses leading scientific researchers in the presentation of the materials in
    the preview videos as they discuss their research
  • ?Related Web Activities? for each program theme provide interactive
    explorations of basic concepts.
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) provides accurate explanations of the basic
    terms and concepts involved.
  • Evolution Library provides a wide range of materials, some text, some
    interactive, to support each of the program themes.
  • Clearly addresses misconceptions about evolution in an engaging way.
  • The site clearly addresses the relationship of evolution and religion with
    emphasis on coexistence.


  • Because the site is supporting a television documentary, topics are not
    always followed to their conclusion.
  • Treatment of the scientific controversy of some of the theories is,
    understandably, not dealt with completely (e.g. speciation) , so this would need
    to be addressed by the instructor (primarily when addressing the issues in
    intermediate courses for majors).

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.8 stars

Potential Effectiveness: (4.5, 5.0)

  • Video introductions to each program are excellent "attention getters".
  • The wide range of materials provided in the library can be easily adapted to
    any situation both within the classroom and as out-of-class
  • The many different types of materials will appeal to all audiences and are
    effective with most learning styles.
  • The student tutorials address the basics of evolution.
  • In addition to the materials on the biological content, there are substantial
    resources on addressing the potential controversy of the subject.
  • Teacher tutorials help guide teachers through the topic.
  • The exercises give estimates of the amount of time to complete them

  • The large size of the site, especially the library (776 separate items) may
    discourage some people of determining how to make use of the site.
  • Learning objectives specific to individual activities would be helpful.
  • Exercises could be more valuable if they provided extensions for more advanced

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.3 stars

Ease of Use: ( 4.5, 4.0)

  • Teacher tutorials help guide teachers through the topic.
  • Navigation is generally clear within a particular activity; some shockwave
    materials may require some exploration to determine what to do next.
  • All links tried functioned and materials loaded quickly in most cases.
  • The choice of using both QuickTime and Real make it more likely that new
    software will be needed on the computers.

  • There is not always a clearly identified return function (the images at the
    top of the page serve that function but have no text marking to indicate that.
  • When you go to a "Related Web Activity", a new list of related activities
    appears that is different from the original one; this makes it difficult to
    identify all the other activities that may connect well with a specific topic.
  • Within some of the flash activities there are some confusing multiple
    navigation elements (but they are consistent throughout the site so one learns
    their use quickly)

Other Issues and Comments:

Overall rating: 4.67

This is a fantastic site in some ways there is almost too much, it's like being
a kid in a candy store! I hope we see more from these authors