Two speakers at the convocation—Robert Pennock, professor at Michigan State University, and Bruce Alberts, a member and former President of the National Academy of Sciences, professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, and editor-in-chief of the journal Science—discussed the broad issues involved in teaching evolution across the curriculum. Teachers’ acceptance and understanding of evolution can have major impacts on its dissemination into the classroom. In addition, educators often encounter resistance in teaching evolution, and both speakers discussed ways of overcoming this resistance. (Conflicts in the teaching of evolution also are discussed in chapter 4.) Many aspects of instruction and curricula will need to change to make evolution a continual presence in biology education, Pennock and Alberts emphasized, yet these changes could strengthen both biology education and students’ grasp of how evolution works and why it is important.
In 1996, a school superintendent in Kentucky ordered two pages of a textbook glued together because they provided a scientific explanation for the creation of the universe while not also presenting the Bible’s explanation. Teaching evolution throughout the curriculum would make it impossible to avoid the subject, said Pennock. The challenge for the convocation, said Pennock, is: “How can we make sure that you couldn’t do this unless you had to glue the whole textbook together?”
An Evolving Controversy
Most of the critics of evolution no longer directly challenge the idea of teaching scientific concepts in science classrooms, Pennock noted. Instead, they proclaim that teachers should “teach the controversy.” For example, a bill introduced in Michigan a few years ago requires teachers to “(A) use the scientific method to critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theories of global warming and evolution,” and “(B) use relevant scientific data to assess the validity of those theories and to formulate arguments for and against those theories.”1 As Michigan Representative John Moolenaar said, this language leaves it up to local school boards whether to require the teaching of intelligent design (ID)—the idea that living things are too complex not to have been created by a divine or supernatural intelligence.
Pennock noted that this approach was soundly repudiated in the federal court case Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District. As the judge in that case wrote, “ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard.” Yet critics of evolution continue to try to insert religious ideas into science classes using this approach. When intelligent design creationists proposed to the Texas Board of Education that students be required to analyze and evaluate “strengths and weaknesses” in evolutionary theory, the board voted against the proposal, after which creationists proposed that students study “evidence supportive and not supportive of a theory.” The board again voted against the proposal, but when creationists next proposed that students study “the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record”—which are all buzzwords for intelligent design creationism—the board accepted the proposal. “It’s never quite over,” said Pennock. “You have to pay attention to the way that words are used, and language makes a difference.”
Using Language Carefully
Especially in teaching evolution, teachers need to be very precise in the language they use, said Pennock, because students and the public are very attuned to the nuances of particular terms. “The way in which we frame these issues can make a difference in terms of whether they’re going to be accepted.”
1 Almost identically worded bills have been proposed during the past several years in the legislatures of several other states.
Particularly problematic is the use of the word theory. For example, the disclaimer that the Cobb County, Georgia, Board of Education approved to insert into the textbook Biology by Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine (2004) and other texts that include discussion of evolution read, “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the evolution of living things.”2 But the colloquial meaning of theory is very different from the scientific meaning. The general public interprets the word theory as a guess or supposition—“you have your theory and I have mine.” In science, a theory is a broad overarching explanation that accounts for a wide variety of empirical observations. To avoid this confusion, Pennock uses the term evolutionary science rather than evolutionary theory. “This is a way of avoiding a word that we know is going to trip people up,” he said.
Many other terms commonly used in evolutionary science have ambiguous or multiple meanings, including adapt, selection, and even evolution itself. These terms need to be defined and used carefully to avoid confusing scientific and colloquial meanings.
Getting Learners Hooked
In countering attacks on evolution, the scientific community tends to be reactive, said Pennock. A legislative proposal needs to be defeated. The statements of a creationist politician need to be countered. From this perspective, the discussion becomes a debate, with each side presenting its best arguments.
The scientific community needs to think about becoming more proactive, said Pennock. In this way, people could be reached before the discussion becomes a debate.
This approach is complicated by the large percentage—approximately 40 percent—of people in the United States who believe that evolution is false (Figure 2-1). Even 32 percent of students with a college education answered “no” to the question, “Do you think that the modern theory of evolution has a valid scientific foundation.” In fact, among high school biology teachers, 40 percent think that “there are sufficient problems with the theory of evolution to cast doubts on its validity” (Berkman and Plutzer, 2011).
The best opportunity, suggested Pennock, lies in reaching the 20 percent of Americans who are unsure about the accuracy of evolution. “That has to be a primary target, not initially to reach those who are opposed
2 The full text of this sticker reads: “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”
FIGURE 2-1 A larger percentage of people reject evolution as false in the United States than in almost all other developed countries.
ideologically, but to reach those in the middle who just don’t know.” It also is particularly important to reach teachers and future teachers, because they are the ones who will teach their students the subject.
Scientists often think that the best way to convince the undecided is to marshal the data. But at the frontiers of knowledge, scientific discussion most often takes the form of evidence-based persuasion, Pennock said. “How do we get students to think about evidence-based reasoning? Clearly, this is where we want to get them.”
To think in these terms, students and members of the public first need to be hooked. The way to do that, said Pennock, is to start not with data but with something that gets them interested. Evolutionary science has many topics featuring practical applications, such as evolutionary medicine, pest management, forensic tools, evolutionary computation, and evolutionary engineering design. Most scientists themselves became interested in science because of a hook that got them emotionally engaged, observed Pennock. Only after they were interested in science did they learn about hypotheses, data, and predictions. “The initial thing is how you reach their hearts. Their minds then come next. Data isn’t the first thing. We think of data first, but actually data is last. The first thing is how you hook them.”
The same observation applies in interacting with the media. Scientists want to dwell on the data, whereas journalists are most interested in why a topic matters. “When they write the story, that’s what they’ll write first. The lead of the story is the upshot. What’s in it for us? Then, once they’ve hooked you, they can present the data.”
As a specific example of how to make evolution relevant, Pennock mentioned evolutionary medicine. Medical students are interested in why people get sick, and if those reasons have evolutionary roots, these students can become interested in evolution. Along the same lines, the education committee of the Society for the Study of Evolution has been holding an annual symposium on applied evolution for the past 10 years. Although the society was initially skeptical, the symposium has become one of the most popular it offers.
Pennock described in greater detail a particular way to get students interested in evolution. One complication with teaching evolution is that it has been difficult to do evolutionary experiments in real time, but Pennock and his colleagues have developed ways of doing just that. The Bio/computational Evolution in Action Consortium (BEACON) is a new science and technology center at Michigan State University that explores
The first of two sets of breakout groups during the convocation addressed the general question: “What constitutes evolutionary thinking?” Individual breakout groups were asked to address the following issues more specifically:
Group 1: What approaches are needed to educate faculty and departments about the value of evolutionary thinking in their own courses and programs?
Group 2: What additional evidence is needed to convince biologists of the value of evolutionary thinking? How can that evidence best be gathered through an organized program of research? Who should undertake and sponsor such research?
Group 3: How can evolutionary thinking become more firmly connected with other emerging efforts to improve life sciences education? In what ways should these efforts be influenced by different target audiences?
During the plenary reporting session that followed the breakout group meetings, multiple breakout group participants made several main points.
First, evolutionary science is driven by evidence. As a result, there can be uncertainty about specific questions. Evolutionary understanding continues to progress as more questions are answered and as understanding is refined. If students understand that the science continues to advance at the forefront of knowledge, then they can take a big step toward understanding not only how evolutionary biology but also how science in general works.
evolutionary processes in both biological and computational systems.3 BEACON studies evolution in real time using real organisms in laboratories and field sites and “digital organisms” that evolve in computers. On the biological side, for example, Pennock pointed to Michigan State University’s Richard Lenski, who has been conducting a long-term evolution experiment with E. coli for more than 20 years. By following evolution in parallel lines of E. coli for more than 50,000 generations, he and his colleagues have observed evolutionary adaptations in all of the lines.
On the computational side, random variation, selection, and evolution all can be modeled in computer systems. Using a system called Avida, for example, students can explore basic evolutionary mechanisms and test hypotheses (Box 2-1). In one set of experiments, students can use a virtual Petri dish to observe a model for the evolution of colonies of
Evolutionary biology is also probabilistic. The genes that are passed from one generation to the next cannot be predicted with certainty, which means that the future evolutionary pathways cannot be predicted with certainty. Students increasingly need to think about evolution in probabilistic terms as their level of understanding advances.
Evolutionary biology is more dependent on variation than are other sciences. This variation can be both observed and appreciated even by very young students. Even second graders, for example, can observe the differences and similarities among siblings.
Finally, evolutionary biology has a historical dimension. Life on earth evolved over billions of years, which means that unique things have happened in the course of that history. Every hydrogen atom behaves like every other hydrogen atom. But every gene, individual organism, and species is the result of a historical process and cannot be fully understood without understanding that history. Particular lineages have evolved, and these events can probably happen only once because of the unique combination of genes, environments, and chance that gave rise to that lineage. The history of life is contingent, so that if it were rerun, the same things would not likely happen. Nevertheless, there is a tree of life that can never be completely described but can be continually explored.
Students bring many misconceptions to their study of evolution. One is that evolution is a progressive process in which humans are the pinnacle of a long chain of advancement. Another is that everything in nature is optimized because it has evolved to fit perfectly with the environment. A much more accurate concept is that evolution involves tradeoffs between costs and benefits. A big brain has advantages for humans but makes birth more difficult than it is for other mammals. Standing upright has advantages but creates a greater likelihood of back pain.
virtual organisms. As sub-colonies in this virtual system “evolve” new characteristics through the appearance of random mutations, they can take over their predecessors in the colony. Students can vary the mutation rate or the resources available to the virtual organisms. “We finally have a new lever to let students observe [models for mechanisms of evolution] for themselves and do so through inquiry-based lessons.”
Intelligent design creationists have been alarmed by the BEACON center, said Pennock, because it shows how complex systems can evolve through the mechanisms of evolution. They have been “trying to attack the whole project because we can see evolution doing what they’ve claimed it can’t do. That’s the thing about observing evolution in action. It’s compelling to students because they can see for themselves. It’s not just that you’re telling them; they can see it.”
Avida has been used to do forefront research in evolutionary theory (see, for example, Adami et al., 2000; Lenski et al., 2003; and Yedid et al., 2008). In addition, once an evolution algorithm has been implemented
in a computer system, it can be used to solve engineering problems. Pennock noted that evolutionary computation has yielded safer cars, smarter robots, and steadier rockets. This is another way of demonstrating how evolution makes a difference in our lives. “This is something that is very pragmatic,” said Pennock. “Evolution works.”
These kinds of success stories can be disseminated to the public through a variety of means. A recent USA Science and Engineering Festival featured the practical applications of evolution through the Evolution Thought Trail, a collaborative effort among some 15 disciplinary societies and the National Academy of Sciences.4 Presentations on influenza viruses, robot controllers, and pest management all have drawn considerable attention. These kinds of outreach efforts “give people a way to start thinking about the process.”
Evolution and the Nature of Science
Finally, Pennock observed that, far from being an uncertain science, evolution is science done right. (Box 2-1 describes some of the dimensions of thinking evolutionarily.) As such, it is one of the best examples available to illustrate the nature of science. It illustrates the links between observations and explanations, indirect evidence and experimental results, and causes and effects. “We need to be using evolution to teach about the nature of science,” Pennock said.
Over the five editions of Molecular Biology of the Cell, cell biologists have grown increasingly aware of the enormous complexity of the chemistry in cells, said Alberts, one of the co-authors of the popular and esteemed textbook. Nearly all cellular processes are driven by groups of 10 to 20 proteins organized as protein machines and incorporating ordered protein movements. Furthermore, these processes occur through elegant mechanisms that themselves are too complex to predict.
Nevertheless, there is a way to shortcut this complexity. Because of evolution, organisms living today have homologies where similar structures or functions were inherited from a common ancestor. For this reason, the shortest path for working out a mechanism in human cells often starts with molecular studies in simpler model organisms. For example, a comparison of genomic sequences for various species of animals shows that the gene that causes cystic fibrosis in humans when it is mutated is very similar across organisms. Many other genomic regions are also care-
fully conserved over evolutionary time, yet biologists know very little about why many of these regions are conserved or what they do. “When you find these kinds of sequences, what it means is that this thing has some important function, [but] we have no idea what that function is, so it directs what biologists do,” said Alberts.
Beyond the Textbook
Textbooks emphasize what scientists have learned, but the most important objective in science education is to teach people what science is, said Alberts. The irrational thinking that is widespread in America “is the strongest argument I can think of for refocusing our education system at all levels on understanding the nature of science, training people how to think rationally, solve problems, and use evidence. Most of them will never be a scientist, but they need that to deal with the world around them.”
As John A. Moore emphasized in his Science as a Way of Knowing project, it is not enough to tell people about evolution, Alberts observed. They need to understand the nature of science, but that is not happening today. Alberts told an anecdote about a third grader returning from school who told his scientist mother, “Now, I understand science. It’s the same as spelling. You just have to memorize it because it does not make any sense.” As Alberts said, “I wish every college professor would soak that in because we teach this way even in college science.”
Many Americans also mistakenly believe that science is what scientists believe, religion is what religious leaders believe, and both are equivalent dogmatic belief systems. If that is true, according to this line of reasoning people can choose either system. “If you think about how we teach science, this is not such as a surprising conclusion.”
As editor of Science, Alberts has been working to redefine science education, and the key to this redefinition is the introductory college science class. These classes need to address all four strands of science proficiency described in the publication Taking Science to School (National Research Council, 2007):
Strand 1: Know, use, and interpret scientific explanations of the natural world.
Strand 2: Generate and evaluate scientific evidence and explanations.
Strand 3: Understand the nature and development of scientific knowledge.
Strand 4: Participate productively in scientific practices and discourse.
All of the strands are of equal importance in high-quality science education, said Alberts. But only one involves knowing what scientists have
discovered about the world. The other three involve how scientists learn about the world. A valuable activity for scientific societies would be to work with other societies and institutions to reshape college introductory biology courses to address all four of these strands, said Alberts.
Another valuable role for scientific societies would be to emphasize the importance of high-quality, low-resource lab modules that stress student inquiry to replace the standard, follow-the-instructions, “cookbook” college laboratories. “I was in the laboratory for three years at Harvard, for three afternoons a week,” said Alberts. “Basically, I was learning how to cook. I didn’t know what science was.” In 2011, Science conducted a contest for the best inquiry lab modules for introductory college science courses. A module is defined as something that takes 8 to 50 hours of student work, which makes the module small enough to transfer from place to place. The 15 winners will be announced throughout 2012. Once a month (with three months featuring two winners) Science will publish a two-page printed article by the originators of the winning module(s), accompanied by on-line supplementary material containing all of the instructions needed to replicate the lab. The contest will be repeated in 2012, with winners being published in 2013.5
Finally, Alberts suggested that scientific societies could work with each other and with other organizations to increase the importance and prestige associated with being a great teacher of science. Focus groups have revealed that a failure to understand the nature of science lies at the heart of the evolution versus creationism debate (e.g., Labov and Kline Pope, 2008). “Our teaching of science as the ‘revealed truth’ has not worked,” said Alberts. “It also has not worked to create a population that understands science well enough and can think rationally well enough to confront politicians when they say things about climate change—as they’re doing now—that are totally wrong.”
Alberts briefly described an introductory college-level biology class at the University of Minnesota. The class takes place in a room with large tables that can seat nine students and have two laptops connected to the Internet. These tables can project what is on either of the screens on an overhead screen, and the teacher can reproduce what is on one screen
5 For access to these modules and a more extensive description of the initiative, see http://www.sciencemag.org/site/feature/data/prizes/inquiry/.
Hooking Students with Human Behavior
Marlene Zuk, professor of biology at the University of California, Riverside, works on sexual selection and the evolution of mating behavior. “Sex is a great motivation for people to learn about things, and I’m surprised that no one else has suggested that as a motivation for students.”
The biological differences between men and women evolved; indeed, Darwin wrote a whole book titled The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (Darwin, 1871). “What makes males different from females is an extremely important evolutionary question that we can answer using the exact same tools that we use to address other scientific questions,” Zuk said.
Students inevitably ask questions about human behaviors. But a study of evolution makes it possible to look at the evolution of reproductive behaviors in a wide range of organisms, including humans. The same questions can be asked: On what evidence is a conclusion based? Does a particular caricature of human behavior—such as whether men are more promiscuous than women—have any basis in evolutionary science? “It’s not necessarily sidestepping the controversies,” said Zuk. “It’s giving students the tools to talk about them without assuming that, ‘If I go in for this evolution thing, it necessarily means I have to think a certain way about human behavior.’”
on all the screens in the room.6 “As you might imagine, people who take Biology I this way think completely differently about what science is than do the students who take biology sitting in a big lecture hall, more or less memorizing what the teacher has said.” (Box 2-2 describes another way of interesting students in evolution.)
In response to a question about whether the 40 percent of high school biology teachers who doubt evolution were science majors or teaching majors, Pennock pointed out that they were all undergraduates at one time, whether they were biology majors or not. Scientists have a tendency to push the blame for not understanding evolution to earlier and earlier ages, whether college, high school, elementary school, or parents’ attitudes. But in the end, he argued, “it’s our fault.” Biology teachers were not
6 Additional information about the physical facilities and the changes in pedagogy that those facilities have encouraged that are different than what is possible in large lecture halls is available at http://www.classroom.umn.edu/projects/alc.html.
shown effective ways to teach evolution when they were undergraduates, so it is not surprising that they struggle as teachers. “If other people aren’t doing it, it’s because we didn’t do a good job when they were our students. So whether they’re majors or non-majors, part of what we need to do is clean up our own house.” In that respect, the most important audience for how to teach evolution better is current faculty, said Pennock. “If we can’t convince them to do this, how are we going to have a hope of convincing anyone else?” Teaching evolution across the curriculum, as well as modeling effective teaching approaches, is a way to break out of this cycle, said Pennock. Effective teachers can show their colleagues how to teach evolution well, and effectiveness will spread.
Elvis Nunez from the University of Florida and Caribbean Examination Council reported on the negative attitudes of high school teachers with whom he has worked. The teachers said things such as “I will start believing in evolution when it starts affecting my life,” “Nothing good has come out of evolution,” “I can teach and live without knowledge of evolution,” and “Even college students have trouble with the subject, so why teach it in high school?”
Edward Egelman from the University of Virginia pointed out that people may not be rejecting science so much as deciding that evolution is somehow controversial within science, in the same way that they have been convinced to think of climate change research as “bad science.” Alberts responded that people do not know enough about science to deal with bad information. “They may think that science is wonderful because it brought them the iPhone. But it doesn’t mean that they understand enough about it to be able to deal with the modern world of confusing politicians, salesmen, and everybody else trying to get your money or your vote.”
Randall Phillis from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, pointed out that some fundamentalist preachers tell people that if they believe in evolution, they will be damned. This is why some students do not show up when evolution is taught—they fear for their souls, and they will not question their faith.
Biology teacher Paul Strode from Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado, expressed the view that when students have a belief, whether religious or otherwise, that is in direct conflict with known scientific fact, they should be challenged to reconsider that idea. “We’re not challenging those beliefs well enough.”
John Staver from Purdue University pointed out that Jesus told his disciples in the Bible to try to understand problems. “The whole notion of religion as memorizing something and not thinking about something and being extremely certain about everything is not what the Rabbi from Nazareth did or advocated,” he said. If scientists and religious scholars
worked together, they could devise new ways to interact with people who oppose teaching and learning about evolution.
Textbook author Joseph Levine gives a talk during his in-service professional development sessions for teachers about the relationship between religion and science from a personal perspective. He goes back to the first verses of Genesis in Hebrew, translates them for teachers, and works through their meaning. Non-condescending, inclusive messages about how people reconcile faith and science may not change minds, he said, but it can open them.
Maxine Singer reiterated her opening remarks that it is a mistake to challenge a person’s faith. “People of great faith have existed since the beginning of human time. Many people depend on that in different ways.… Better to try to figure out how to teach biology to people in a way that people will learn if not accept.”
A major theme of several discussion sessions was getting students motivated and emotionally invested in learning about evolution. Caitlin Schrein, a Ph.D. student at Arizona State University, is trying to demonstrate the relevance of evolution to current and personally relevant topics—for example, by teaching about evolution in the context of humans. She also pointed out that the students in an introductory biology course in college have a huge range of backgrounds, from those who have passed AP Biology to those who have never taken biology before. What are the competencies that should be expected of incoming students?
Mark Schwartz from the New York University School of Medicine also observed that it is important to identify real-world benefits of applying evolutionary science, such as understanding the phylogenetics of infectious microorganisms or the metastatic spread of cancer. In addition, Phillis listed invasive species, antibiotic resistance, and the risks of monocultures in agriculture as examples of evolution in action. “Pretty much every day of the semester, we’re going to get to the place where we talk about something cool in evolutionary biology.”
Schwartz also noted that undergraduates are motivated if they know that something is going to be on the test. “If our goal is to reach everybody, which is one of the carrots that works. It’s not the only one, but that is what drives much of undergraduate education. For those of us who teach, the common refrain is, ‘Will it be on the test?’ And the answer is, ‘Yes, you have to understand the concept, not the memorization.’”
Celeste Carter from the National Science Foundation agreed that tests are important to students, but so are teaching styles. Although lecturing can be important for transmitting blocks of information, instructors also
can be facilitators of learning rather than directors of learning. “You don’t always have to be the person with this font of knowledge that you’re going to pour out.” For example, an approach that can interest students more than lecturing is problem-based learning, she said. Undergraduate research experiences of many different types also can convince students to remain in science disciplines.
Regarding tests, a strategy Carter used when she taught is to have students take an exam twice. The first time they do it closed book and on their own. The second time they can bring anything they want into the classroom and have an open discussion among themselves about the answers. Many students told Carter that they learned more from discussing their viewpoints than they did from almost any other activity they did in her classroom.
David Mindell from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco remarked on the value of getting students into the field to connect evolutionary biology with nature. Students are increasingly from urban populations and settings, he said. “They have no feeling for the organism, in my experience in teaching undergraduates, or they have relatively little. It can make a huge difference to take them out on at least one and ideally multiple trips to the field to let them see organisms in the wild.” Such experiences can cement the concepts students learn in a classroom and help them become scientifically literate adults.
According to Richard Potts, Director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution, it is possible to use depictions of evolution in popular culture to teach students, including both realistic ideas about evolution and “terribly wrong” ideas. For example, a discussion of phylogenetic analysis on the CSI television show can motivate students to learn more about the subject. Students “suddenly feel that now it’s relevant to them because, well, if it’s on CSI, then it’s something they care about.”
Steve Klein from NSF emphasized the value of knowledge for its own sake. People are very interested in basic sciences such as astronomy, whether it benefits their lives or not. “We need to explain to people that it’s a natural human function to try to understand the world we live in.”
Better Preparation for Students and Teachers
The summer between high school and college offers many opportunities to motivate and prepare students for college, said Schwartz during his prepared remarks as a panelist. Bridge classes, math boot camps, laboratory classes, mentoring opportunities, seminars on study habits, and many other possibilities exist. The key, said Schwartz, “is to have a repertoire of pedagogies to be able to address as many of those students and as many of those groups as you can, … whether you are talking
about high school biology, undergraduate biology, community colleges, or medical school.”
Carter pointed out during the ensuing discussion that students who take courses at community colleges constitute roughly half of the undergraduates in the United States. These students can range from 12 to 64 years of age and have widely divergent backgrounds. “You have to be creative,” she said. “You have to think about and find out who is sitting in that classroom in front of you and then think about strategies that are going to motivate and keep each one of those people engaged.”
Improving the subject matter knowledge of teachers was one of the motivations behind the development of UTeach at the University of Texas, said Potts, where undergraduate science majors earn a teaching certificate in four years and are ready to teach high school science when they graduate. Much of the responsibility for the UTeach initiative lies with the university’s science faculty.7 “It’s not any surprise that a lot of high school science teachers don’t really understand science because they’re not science majors in large part, but that’s beginning to change,” Potts noted.
During the general discussion, Schrein briefly summarized a survey on science education in elementary schools of 1,100 teachers, principals, and district administrators at 300 California public schools (Dorph et al., 2011). Only 10 percent of elementary students regularly experience hands on science practices, according to the survey. The obstacles reported by teachers, principals, and administrators to teaching science include the lack of funds for supplies, not enough time, and insufficient teachers’ training. According to the survey, 40 percent of elementary teachers spend fewer than 60 minutes teaching science per week.
Jay Labov of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council, and study director for the NRC report that resulted in the current restructuring of several Advanced Placement science courses, said that the new AP Biology program has the potential to be a game changer. (See Chapter 6 for a description of these changes.) People will be less likely to attack the restructured course’s increased emphasis on evolution as a ”big idea” and ”unifying theme” because AP Biology offers too many benefits in terms of college admissions and credit. Students who take the class may not come to accept evolution, but they will at least learn about the subject. He also emphasized the influence of AP courses on other parts of the high school curriculum as well as on middle schools and postsecondary education.
Finally, Maxine Singer and several other people pointed to the impor-
7 Additional information about UTeach is available at http://uteach.utexas.edu. This model has been promulgated through the National Mathematics and Science Initiative (http://nationalmathandscience.org) and is now available at universities across the United States.
tance of reaching students who do not take AP Biology. These students will constitute the large majority of the general public in the future, and their understanding of evolution will dictate which attitudes are most prevalent.
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