What’s effective and ineffective in preparing high school biology educators to teach evolution? Evidence from a representative national U.S. survey

Glenn Branch, Eric Plutzer, Ann Reid

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Abstract

Background: What types of coursework prepare biology teachers to teach evolution effectively? The present study provides answers to that question based on evidence from a nationally representative sample of public high school biology teachers in the U.S. Data about their pre-service coursework (in seven categories) and their attitudes and practices relevant to teaching evolution (in five categories relating to personal acceptance of evolution, perception of scientific consensus on evolution, instructional time devoted to evolution, classroom characterization of evolution and creationism, and emphasis on specific topics in teaching evolution) were collected. Results: Coursework focused on evolution was significantly associated with positive outcomes: more class hours devoted to evolution, not presenting creationism as scientifically credible, and prioritizing common ancestry, human evolution, and the origin of life as topics of instruction, while shunning Biblical perspectives on the history of life. Similarly, coursework with some evolution content was significantly associated with positive outcomes: awareness of the scientific consensus on evolution, presenting evolution but not creationism as scientifically credible, and prioritizing common ancestry as a topic of instruction. But surprisingly, methods coursework on problem-based learning was significantly associated with negative outcomes: presenting creationism as well as evolution as scientifically credible and prioritizing Biblical perspectives on the history of life as a topic of instruction. Similarly, and likewise surprisingly, methods coursework on teaching controversial topics was associated with a negative outcome: presenting creationism as scientifically credible. Conclusion: Consistent with previous work, the results of the present study suggest that pre-service coursework in evolution is important in preparing educators to teach evolution effectively. But they also suggest, surprisingly, that pre-service methods coursework aimed at preparing educators to teach evolution effectively tends, at present, to be counterproductive, leading to the presentation of creationism as scientifically credible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4
JournalEvolution: Education and Outreach
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Education

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