A modeling approach to teaching evolutionary biology in high schools*

Authors

  • Cynthia Passmore,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1025 West Johnson Street, Madison, WI 53705
    • Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1025 West Johnson Street, Madison, WI 53705.
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  • Jim Stewart

    1. National Center for Improving Student Learning and Achievement in Mathematics and Science, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI 53705
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  • *

    We thank the following for providing valuable comments on the manuscript: Andrea Barton, Susan Carpenter, Jen Cartier, Sam Donovan, Fae Dremock, Susan Johnson, Karen Mesmer, and John Rudolph.

    Any opinions, findings, or conclusions are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the supporting agencies.

Abstract

There are numerous empirical reports in the science education literature documenting the difficulty students have in understanding evolution, in particular natural selection. Unfortunately, because of the nature of empirical reports, much detail about the instruction that students in these studies received is seldom provided. In this article we describe the commitments and research that went into the design of a 9-week high school course in evolutionary biology. This course was designed to bring students to an understanding of the practice of evolutionary biology by engaging them in developing, elaborating, and using one of the discipline's most important explanatory models—Darwin's model of natural selection. This article is not an empirical report on student understanding but is instead a description of our view of what constitutes understanding in evolution and of a curriculum designed from this perspective. Examples of student work are used to add richness to the description of the course as well as to illustrate the potential for sophisticated reasoning that exists when students are given the opportunity and conceptual tools to engage in realistic inquiry. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 39: 185–204, 2002

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