about atoms, then genes, cells, organ systems, and only eventually—after students are completely bored—to close their eyes and be allowed to touch the elephant.
We know from the best of education literature that science teaching works best when science is taught as science is done. Many excellent teachers show students how science is a way of knowing about the world, that it is interactive, dynamic, and exploratory, and that it draws on a mix of observations, experiments, facts, hypotheses, technologies, and theories. Everyone learns best when starting from something known and then building up facts, skills, and theoretical interpretations to arrive at better, richer, and more complex facts, skills, and theoretical interpretations.
Perhaps one reason biology education focuses on facts and observations is that being self-reflective about theory is harder. Another reason may be strategic, especially when discussing evolutionary theory, because of the need to avoid suggesting that evolution is “merely” a speculation, as many people interpret the term. Yet, as this report makes clear, theory is not mere speculation but a central and necessary part of science. It is important that biologists consciously and carefully embrace theory as essential and work to promote understanding of its central role.
One of the core theoretical foundations of all of biology is evolution, which is a theory in the sense that it is an interpretation that provides an explanation of a vast diversity of established fact. In another sense, evolution can be considered a fact since it is well established that the vastly diverse living organisms are related through common descent. The theory of evolution is so fundamental to understanding biology that no science education can be considered adequate unless students take away an appreciation of how evolution has shaped life on earth and how it acts as an organizing concept for biology.
Students at any stage come to science with experiences and background knowledge that consist of a mixture of facts and theory. They have expectations based on that experience, and they interpret their experiences in certain ways. Asking new questions allows them to recognize new facts or to discover new questions that shape new expectations and theories. In many areas of biology, mathematical and computational models are increasingly important and biology students need to be trained to go beyond arguing by assertion, to use the disciplined logic essential for the implementation of formal models to determine the adequacy of their knowledge, and to generate new hypotheses. As this report has shown, science is a complex process, and education needs both to acknowledge the complexity and to teach all aspects of the science. Science education should be about learning to recognize, evaluate, and develop new theories as well as about how to test hypotheses through well-controlled experimentation, to employ ap-