Learning Evolution through Human and Non-Human Case Studies

This project will develop and test two curriculum units on the topic of evolution for high school general biology courses, with one unit focusing primarily on human case studies to teach evolution and one unit focusing primarily on case studies of evolution in other species. The two units will be compared to examine how different approaches to teaching evolution affect students and teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1621194
Funding Period: 
September 15, 2016 to August 31, 2021
Full Description: 

This project aligns with Alabama's College & Career-Ready Standards (CCRS) for biology in grades 9-12 relating to Unity and Diversity. These standards are based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and go into effect during the 2016-2017 school year. Building on prior work (DRL-119468), this project will develop and test two curriculum units on the topic of evolution for high school general biology courses, with one unit focusing primarily on human case studies to teach evolution and one unit focusing primarily on case studies of evolution in other species. The two units will be compared to examine how different approaches to teaching evolution affect students and teachers. The project will also develop and field test a Cultural and Religious Sensitivity (CRS) Resource to provide teachers with strategies for creating supportive learning environments where understanding of the scientific account of evolution is aided while also acknowledging the cultural controversy associated with learning about evolution. The impacts on student and teacher outcomes of using the curriculum units and the CRS Resource will be tested in classrooms by comparing the outcomes of the human versus non-human units, and by using or not using classroom strategies from the CRS Resource.

The project will examine student and teacher outcomes of four treatment groups: 1) Curriculum Unit 1, 2) Curriculum Unit 1 with the CRS Resource, 3) Curriculum Unit 2, and 4) Curriculum Unit 2 with the CRS Resource. The research questions are: 1) In what ways does using examples of human versus non-human evolution to teach core evolutionary concepts affect understanding of, acceptance of, and motivation to learn about evolution among high school introductory biology students? 2) In what ways do using teaching strategies that focus on acknowledging the cultural controversy about evolution using a procedural neutrality approach affect high school introductory biology teachers' comfort and confidence with teaching evolution? 3) In what ways does using examples of human versus non-human evolution to teach fundamental evolutionary concepts in conjunction with teaching strategies that focus on acknowledging the cultural controversy about evolution using a procedural neutrality approach affect understanding of, acceptance of, and motivation to learn about evolution among high school introductory biology students? And 4) In what ways does using examples of human versus non-human evolution to teach fundamental evolutionary concepts in conjunction with teaching strategies that focus on acknowledging the cultural controversy about evolution using a procedural neutrality approach affect high school introductory biology teachers' comfort and confidence with teaching evolution? The project will use a 2 X 2 X 2 mixed factorial quasi-experimental research design to answer these questions, and will include a total of 32 teachers, 8 in each treatment group, along with approximately 800 students. Each assessment will be administered as a pretest two weeks prior to starting the curriculum unit and as a posttest immediately after completing the unit. Test scores will be the within-subjects factors, and Curriculum Unit and CRS Resource will be the between-subjects factors.

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