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Peer Review

Understanding Evolution



Overall Numeric Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Feb 20, 2006 by Teacher Education

This comprehensive site provides information from scientists for the general
public, teachers, and students. It briefly addresses virtually every question that one might ask about evolution,
with links to other locations and sites for further details.
The general categories include:

  • What is evolution and how does it work?
  • How does evolution impact my life?
  • What is the evidence for evolution?
  • What is the history of evolutionary theory?

The section for teachers first outlines the major concepts that reflect the
fundamentals of teaching evolution:
Variation, Inheritance, Selection, Time, and the Nature of Science. Each listed
sub-concept provided links to details and classroom materials according to
grade levels. Lessons can also be searched for with lesson topics or keywords.

A most important section, Overcoming Roadblocks, addresses in detail the
potential problems teachers might encounter, including the many misconceptions
about evolution. It explains why teaching evolution is essential, and suggests
strategies to consider for avoiding and dealing with potential pitfalls. The
level of detail and quality of suggestions are most impressive, and simply not a
subject readily available anywhere else online. Any teacher who is the least
bit apprehensive, or reluctant to deal with evolution because of the perceived
controversy, will find an abundance of practical support, encouragement and
ready-to-use materials here.

Type of Material:

Information (responses to questions), and classroom lessons ready to use.

Recommended Uses:

For K12 teacher education, this material is appropriate to identify where and how it is appropriate to integrate aspects of the nature of science needed to understand the theory of evolution into the K-12 science

Technical Requirements:

Works fine on different PCs with different browsers. Site is very professional, easy to
navigate, with fast response time.

Identify Major Learning Goals:

Teachers will be empowered to teach evolution, and to teach it effectively.
Students will come to recognize the importance of evolution, and understand what
it is, how it works, and some of the most compelling evidence pointing to it.
They should also come to recognize that the anti-evolution efforts to discredit
evolution are totally misinformed and flawed, and do not recognize the limits or
nature of science.

Target Student Population:

Science teachers (K-12)

Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: None, other than basic computer navigation skills.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars

This material was collected and developed by a museum with connections to those who understand how to approach informal science education with involvement of university faculty who are evolutionary biologists; the content is current, practical, and accurate, with easy links to deeper details (including references to both news articles and primary research publications) and to teaching materials.


Because many teachers have limited access to science libraries, more links to actual primary research reports on specific topics would strengthen the quality of the content for use by teachers.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars

The major focus is on practical strategies
and materials for teaching evolution, combined with considerations of possible
obstacles and pitfalls and how to deal with them. The detailed explanations of various aspects of evolutionary theory linked to examples from real and current research make these resources an outstanding source for science teachers. The Potential Pitfalls illustrate problems every life science teacher should learn to recognize. Unfortunately, the Activities listed as Potential Pitfalls still represent some very common teaching strategies found in classrooms, and this site holds the potential to break the cycle of misinformation.

The way in which lessons are lnked to both grade level and concepts is quite natural and useful for teachers.


Two reviewers highlight only two concerns:

  1. Lessons are not always rated or ranked (unless appearing on separately on Merlot or other rating site). The qualifications of those who developed and/or selected the lessons is unclear. Some of the lessons listed are better than others, and we would welcome the addition of some additional rating of both depth of content and pedagogical power. We recommend that the lessons might be reviewed by students in teacher education courses from the perspective of both content quality and pedagogical content. Additional instruction might be needed to help teachers understand how particular topics, problems or issues about evolution should be organized, represented, and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for instruction.
  2. A second but related concern is that lessons are listed as isolated events. Planning for sequence is definitely needed to help students make the steps from activities presented in lessons to building a deeper understanding and ability to explain mechanisms of evolution.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars

Easy and logical to navigate. A Site Index makes it easy for teachers to search for lessons by topic, keywords and/or grade levels. Quick response time. Not heavily burdened with unneccessary graphics that would slow the navigation time. Professionally developed.

Concerns: none

Other Issues and Comments:

This site should be bookmarked on the computer(s) of every K-12 and college
teacher of biology, life science, earth science class, and thoroughly used by
them. It should be the "clearinghouse" site of first choice when looking for
materials, strategies and information for teaching evolution and/or the nature
of science.