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MERLOT II

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Peer Review


Teaching about Evolution & the Nature of Science

 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 4.75 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Aug 07, 2007 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: Seven chapters and 5 appendices are aimed primarily at training teachers to teach evolution. The chapters include in depth discussion of major themes in evolution, the nature of science, and how, unlike other explanations of species origins and diversity (including creation science), evolutionary theory is consistent with science as a way of knowing. The first chapter addresses teachers directly, asking Why Teach Evolution? The appendices include items on the laws governing the teaching of evolution and creations science, as well as suggested readings. From the preface: It summarizes the overwhelming observational evidence for evolution and suggests effective ways of teaching the subject. It explains the nature of science and describes how science differs from other human endeavors. It provides answers to frequently asked questions about evolution and the nature of science and offers guidance on how to analyze and select teaching materials.
Learning Goals: Demonstrate the importance of evolutionary theory in modern biology. Demonstrate the nature and processes of science using evolution as a theme. Compare the scientific processes and vocabulary with its vernacular usage and how it impacts students learning of the topic. Prepare instructors to use inquiry based approaches to teach both the nature of science and evolutionary.
Target Student Population: This resource is intended for inservice and preservice teachers and science educators who prepare these groups. It will also be of great use to college instructors of introductory biology who frequently encounter students who have never been taught anything about evolution. This is not intended as a student resource, but there are materials prepared for students.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: For the material on evolutionary theory and scientific method, none; for public school teachers, training in how to approach or deal with controversy (flack from students or parents!).
Type of Material: pdf files; text with illustrations, links; classroom activities.
Recommended Uses: To train teachers (and other explicators) to understand evolutionary theory as sound sciences and to teach and explain it.
Technical Requirements: HTML and Adobe PDF reader.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: This is a clear, well organized set of historical and scientific narratives with supporting documents. It presents evolution as a pervasive theme consistent with science as a way of knowing the world. The classroom activities should model scientific thinking (way of knowing) for students. Though not concerned with the contentious debate over CS/ID, the FAQs in chapter 5 deal with CS/ID. A link to Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences is provided in the preface to help teachers etc. give coherent responses to anti-scientific arguments against evolution. Provides excellent coverage of the scientific content, philosophical underpinnings, legal background, and teaching strategies. Provides discussion and rebuttal of the various kinds of challenges often presented when teaching evolution. Materials designed for student use are available in PDF format to allow for easy, high-quality duplication. It is richly documented with references and even has an associated web site with more materials http://www.nationalacademies.org/attic/evolution/index.html
Concerns: Chapters 2 and 3 read just like the college text used by this reviewer, but might be too advanced to actually use as high school reading material. It does not address in a significant fashion the "intelligent design" movement
which is an offshoot of creationism.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: The intended target audience is broad, but in tone the true target audience is public school science teachers. The activities are especially useful as they are not high tech and can be used to demonstrate both evolution and scientific method in any classroom. The materials offer a variety of options for understanding the materials taught, including exercises, dialogues, sample materials, alignment to national science standards, and guidelines for evaluation teaching materials. Provides a complete outline of content that will help the instructor prepare for potential challenges to teaching evolution.
Concerns: It is probably OK to include Chapters 2 and 3 here, given the breadth of the purported target audience. But teachers might benefit more from having non-confrontational strategfies for dealing with challenges from students (and parents!) who claim CS/ID beliefs.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Easy to move from chapter to chapter; not necessary to read in any particular order. It is clearly laid out and easy to navigate. The sample materials and activities are easily obtained both in the content pages and from the page of contents.
Concerns: * There is a single nonfunctional link.

Other Issues and Comments: This site is a tremendous resource looking at a wide range of issues that instructors may be confronted with when they teach about evolution. It is very valuable and I hope they continue to keep this site updated.