Fuller`s File - School of Life Sciences

Introduction to the Workshop
The State of Evolution Education in the Public Schools
Galileo and Heliocentrism
U.S. law supports the teaching of evolution.
Public opinion concerning evolution.
Gallup Polling – Do you believe that human beings were created pretty much in their present
form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?
-December 2010 – 40% said yes
National Science Foundation’s Science Literacy survey – 39% percent of Americans believe
that it is not true that human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species
of animals. - 2010.
Pew Forum poll found that 45% reject the idea that ‘Evolution is the best explanation for the
origins of human life on earth.’ - 2007
Pew Research Center 2013
33% say that humans existed in their present form since the beginning.
60% say that humans of evolved but . . .
- half of these say that humans evolved due to natural processes such as natural
- half say that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the
purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.”
Berkman & Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
Evolution in the public schools.
Pew Research Center – 57% of the public feels that creationism
should be taught along with evolution in the public schools.
Only 33% opposed this proposal.
Of the 33% opposing this proposal, 1/3 thought that only
creationism should be taught (not both).
Only 22% of the public supports the teaching of only evolution in
the science classroom.
Berkman & Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
Nobody likes making people angry.
My aunt and her husband who are very
I have several other family members that I
could have used as an example.
Teachers are in a hard spot.
How do ‘advocates of evolution’, ‘cautious’, and ‘advocates of
creationism’ teach?
Berkman & Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
Surveyed 900 ninth and tenth grade biology teachers across the country (49 states) from various
economic levels.
Advocates of Evolutionary Biology
1. “When I do teach evolution (including answering student questions), I emphasize the broad
consensus that evolution is fact even as scientists disagree about the specific mechanisms through
which evolution occurred.” (Agree or strongly agree)
2. “Evolution serves as the unifying theme for the content of the course.” (Agree or strongly agree)
3. “I believe it is possible to offer an excellent general biology course for high school students that
includes no mention of Darwin or evolutionary theory.” (Disagree or strongly disagree)
28% of biology teachers
Advocates of Evolutionary Biology
1. They do not present evolution as a theory in crisis in any way.
2. They recognize and teach that evolution is an established scientific finding supported by
evidence so overwhelming it has taken on the status of scientific fact.
3. They lace evolution throughout their courses.
“I tell students that I teach evolution as a topic in biology because all other biological
functions are based in evolution.”
“The natural selection process is interjected into almost every topic I cover.”
“We compare the process, knowledge, societal value and types of questions that are
answered by both organized religion and science. We recognize each serves a different
purpose and they do not conflict.”
“I have been able to present an extensive unit on evolution in an ultra-conservative rural
school with minimal negative feedback. I have done this by 1. trying to teach what science
is, 2. how science and religion ask different questions, and 3. by presenting evidence that
science and religion are not in conflict.”
Berkman & Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
Advocates of Creationism
1. When I do teach about creationism or intelligent design (including answering student
questions), I emphasize that this is a valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for
the origin of species.
2. When I do teach creationism or intelligent design (including answering student
questions), I emphasize that many reputable scientists view these as valid alternatives to
Darwinian theory.
13% of biology teachers
Berkman & Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
Advocates of Creationism
Advocates of creationism teach both creationism (at least one hour) and minimize instruction
in evolution.
“I don’t teach the theory of evolution in my life science classes, nor do I teach the Big Bang
Theory in my earth science classes. There is just too much science and inquiry that we do
not have time to do something that is at best poor science.”
“I am always amazed at how evolution and creationism are treated as if they are right or
wrong. They are both belief systems that can never be truly or fully proved or discredited as
man was not present at the beginning to satisfy his or her curiosity as to the nature of the
Teachers who are advocates of creationism support teaching both sides.
“I teach evolution/creation as an inquiry process. I use classroom text as well as other
sources backing evolution/creation. I have several useful videos backing both areas. My goal
is to make students analyze and think to arrive at their own educated decisions.”
Berkman & Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
The Cautious Middle
60% of teachers fall into neither group.
Large and diverse group.
One in ten is a cautious or closet creationist: they do not qualify as advocates of
creationism because they do not incorporate it into their lesson plans.
However, they validate creationism as credible science when prompted by their
85% of the cautious middle accepts evolution.
- They do not teach that (a) evolution is central to all biology, (b) that
evolution has occurred, and (c) that hypotheses based on evolutionary theory
have been confirmed by many scientific studies.
- Instead, they employ techniques that reduce the likelihood of sparking
controversy. But these are the same techniques used by advocates of
Berkman & Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
The Cautious Middle – Avoiding
Three main controversy avoidance techniques showed up repeatedly in the poll.
1. Micro vs. macroevolution. – Teach evolutionary biology as it applies to
within-species changes. Insects evolve pesticide resistance. Bacteria evolve
resistance to anti-biotics, etc. But they do not expose students to the idea that
(a) microevolution leads to speciation and (b) all life on earth shares common
Problem: Advocates of creationism do the same thing. Here’s a quote from an
advocate for creationism:
“I distinguish between microevolution as fact and macroevolution as theory.”
One of modern creationism’s three pillars is that evolution – at least
macroevolution – is not well-established science.
Berkman & Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
The Cautious Middle – Avoiding
2. Teaching to the test. - Many states require a knowledge of evolution on their
science literacy tests. Teachers can get some protection from this. They aren’t
choosing to teach it. The state requires it.
“I have always started the evolution unit by telling the kids that I don’t care if
they believe in evolution or not . . . Just understand it enough to answer the
Regents test questions.”
Here’s a similar quote from an advocate for creationism. “I tell my students to
learn the information for purposes of only passing the state test to graduate.”
When teachers dissociate themselves from science by invoking the test, they
undermine evolution in the minds of the students.
Among major scientific principles, only evolution is so frequently approached as
something that students need to know for the test, not because it is solid
Berkman & Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
The Cautious Middle – Avoiding
3. Students should make up their own minds. – Students should be exposed to
explanations other than evolution – scientific or not. Bills and policies requiring
or encouraging teachers to “teach the controversy” or to teach the “gaps” in
evolution are an increasingly popular creationist tactic to undermine evolution.
These arguments are advanced as supporting “critical thinking” or “critical
This idea plays well because it seems “fair”.
Here are some quotes from creationist advocates.
“To be a true scien[tist], you have to present both evolution and creationism!”
“I let the students know up front that I have a creationist view point of how life
was created. I use the word ‘model’ to explain evolution (‘evolution model’). I
bring in the ‘intelligent design model’ to question the ‘evolution model.’”
Berkman & Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
MISCONCEPTION: Teachers should teach "both sides" of the evolution issue and let
students decide — or give equal time to evolution and creationism.
CORRECTION: Equal time does not make sense when the two "sides" are not equal.
Religion and science are very different endeavors, and religious views do not belong in a
science classroom at all. In science class, students should have opportunities to discuss the
merits of arguments and evidence within the scope of science.
Galileo and Heliocentrism
The Cautious Middle – Avoiding
3. Students should make up their own minds.
Problem – With only 10-15 class hours devoted to evolution, it is not realistic to
expect that students are really equipped to assess and perhaps reject hundreds of
scientific papers.
This approach tells students that science is not a cumulative body of highly
technical knowledge, but is instead something that has some element of personal
Berkman & Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
The Cautious Middle
Given that most teachers in the cautious middle accept
evolution, why do they employ teaching tactics utilized
by advocates of creationism?
Some research suggests that the cautious middle does
not feel sufficiently confident to unabashedly teach
Berkman & Plutzer, American Educator, Summer 2012
% Completed College Evolution Course
Teacher Knowledge of Evolution Matters
Advocates of
Cautious Middle
Advocates of
Teacher Knowledge of Evolution Matters
% Rated Knowledge Above
Average or Exceptional
Advocates of
Cautious Middle
Advocates of
Goal #1: Increase knowledge/comfort with evolution.
Goal #2: Present several activities for in-class use that
touch on several aspects of evolution.
Goal #3: Create lesson plans for teachers to use in
courses with activities aligned to the Next Generation
Science Standards.
A Few Websites
Next Generation Science Standards
Understanding Evolution - Berkley
Understanding Science - Berkley
Evolution in the News - Berkley
National Center for Science Education
National Evolution Synthesis Center – Education and Outreach
EVO-ED – 4 examples of understanding evolution through multiple subdisciples

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