Case Studies in Teaching Evolution: The Intersection of Dilemmas in Practice
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractDespite recent science education reform documents citing evolution as a core concept to be taught in grades K-12, research shows problems with how it is currently taught. Evolution is often avoided, teachers minimize its importance within biology, infuse misconceptions, and/or interject non-scientific ideologies into lessons. My research focused on how teachers in two geographically and culturally distinct school districts in the southwestern U.S. negotiate dilemmas during an evolution unit. One school district was rural and had a large population of Mormon students, while the other district was urban, with a large majority Mexican/Mexican-American students. Using a case study approach, I observed three biology teachers during their evolution lessons, interviewed them throughout the unit, co-planned lessons with them, and collected artifacts from this unit, including anonymous student work. I also included data from four genetics lessons for each teacher to determine if the issues that arose during the evolution unit were a result of the general practice of the teacher, or if they were unique to evolution. Findings showed teachers' backgrounds and comfort levels with evolution, in addition to their perceptions of community context, affected how they negotiated pedagogical, conceptual, political, and cultural dilemmas. This study's findings will inform in-service teachers' future practice and professional development tools to aid with their teaching-this may include methods to negotiate some of the political (e.g. state standards) or cultural (e.g. religious resistance) issues inherent to teaching evolution.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Teaching & Teacher Education