Engaging Ways to Teach Evolution
Lesson Objective: Explore elements of evolution with a variety of engaging tasks
Grades 9-12 / Science / Biology

Thought starters

  1. See how animal masks, kitchen tools, and debate are used to engage students in learning about evolution. What activity helps students understand the complex concepts of natural selection and adaptation?
  2. How does Ms. Molyneux address both evolution and creationism?
This 1st kesson with model beaks and model seeds matching is not new and has been around for over 40 years (the basic concept of the lesson which is to link different size objects that need to be picked up by tweezers, spoons, etc of different shape or size). The relationship though is probabilistic and related not just to the shape matching of the picker instrument (beak) and the picked object (seed), but to several other variables (unrelated to size, such as seed hardness). Research has shown that modeling activity such as this one is likely to reenforce misconceptions about Lamarckian adaptation and divine design, as well as confuse the key issues of the key relationship btw phenotypic variation and natural selection. Moreover on the activity itself reasons for the choice were NOT evidence based (this would have required actual collection of data say of 20 attempts to pick different size seeds), instead of reason based (aside that some if the reasons given by the students were not carefully reasoned - nor questioned or probed sufficiently to determine what exactly was meant).
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So, Gabriel, what would you do to modify this engaging activity so that it does not "reenforce misconceptions about Lamarckian adaptation and divine design". I would like to pick your brain on what would you say perhaps to the students so there's no misconeption. I thought it was well done because the students met the objective and a model is just a representation of facts based on evidence to promote understanding. I will be teaching in a Catholic school as well and it's of utmost importance that I facilitate a fair representation of both sides or all sides.
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Thank you! Wonderful, inspiring video for new teachers seeking to avoid limiting the breadth of teaching while also complying with and respecting realities of the schools and populations.
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I don’t understand how this teacher could say evolution is quite a dry topic. The field is quite dynamic as were her lesson strategies. Because evolution is a rapidly growing field there were a few issues I had with this clip. The teacher is incorrectly teaching that man descended from apes not that we shared a common ancestor. Latest research has suggested ape evolution has not been stagnant and their modern anatomies should not be assumed to represent the ancestral condition for our human lineage. Too much emphasis was placed by this lesson on apes. She also incorrectly said the last student in the lineup was the completed result of evolution, which is a known misconception. I also didn’t feel the debate was appropriate. I would have preferred other creation myth ideas to be represented such as Hopi, Hindu, Islamic, Chinese, Greek etc. then given all these competing ideas being debated based on claims of authority and social proof the evidence toward evolution and Darwin’s evidence then be introduced. To me this debate only reinforced misconceptions and caused more cognitive dissonance among those biased against science. For example the pro-creation student argued there is no mechanism put forward that could explain how the human eye could arise. He clearly hasn’t been introduced to all the concepts of evolution yet and the evidence around the mammalian eye. However he was encouraged to take a public stance on his viewpoint which will further deepen his commitment to this misconception. I hope this debate was followed up with a discussion on bias and logical fallacies. Students also need a continual reinforcement of geologic time in order to comprehend the topic of evolution adequately. I very much appreciate these videos which can teach what not to do as much as what to do.
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