Teaching evolution: Narratives with a view from three southern biology teachers in the USA



This case study explored sociocultural forces that influenced three 10th grade public high school biology teachers' instructional goals, instructional acts, and identity narratives related to the teaching of evolution. Primary data included field observations of classroom instruction and teacher interviews. Secondary data included informal conversations with students, interviews with department chairs, and interviews with a Southern minister. Data were coded and analyzed resulting in categories and themes which provided insights into the sociocultural influences that gave shape to the teaching of evolution for three teachers in this southeastern state. Findings included: (a) changes in teaching identities as the teachers sought legitimacy for teaching evolution through dependency on the textbook as the authoritative knowledge, (b) socioculturally embedded lived experiences and the perceived teaching identity of each teacher that created idiosyncratic positionings related to decisions about teaching evolution, and (c) the complicatory influence of the state standards, the graduation exit examination, and teacher autonomy on teachers' decisions related to the teaching of evolution. This study revealed practical relationships between what actual practices occur when teachers include or exclude evolution within the curriculum and the liabilities and benefits of teacher autonomy related to controversial topics such as evolutionary theory. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 46: 762–790, 2009