Preprint

Educational potential of teaching evolution as an interdisciplinary science [now in-print at EEO https://doi.org/10.1186/s12052-020-00138-4]

If you want to read the PDF, try requesting it from the authors.

Abstract

Evolution education continues to struggle with a range of persistent challenges spanning aspects of conceptual understanding, acceptance, and perceived relevance of evolutionary theory by students in general education. This article argues that a gene-centered conceptualization of evolution may precisely contribute to and exacerbate these challenges. Against that background, we also argue that a trait-centered, generalized, and interdisciplinary conceptualization of evolution may hold significant learning potential for addressing some of these persistent challenges facing evolution education. We outline a number of testable hypotheses about the educational value of teaching evolutionary theory from this more generalized and interdisciplinary conception.

No file available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the file of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... In Hanisch & Eirdosh (2020a) we provide evolution educators with a short review of how evolutionary concepts are conceptualized more broadly based on current discourse in evolution science. In Hanisch & Eirdosh (2020b), we outline a set of hypotheses about the educational potential of teaching evolution from a more generalized, interdisciplinary conception, addressing a range of enduring challenges in evolution understanding and acceptance. Based on the outlined challenges to evolution understanding and acceptance hypothesized to stem from a gene-focused conceptualization, together with the outlined opportunities hypothesized to be capable of addressing these challenges through teaching evolution from a more generalized, interdisciplinary conceptualization, we propose that the evolution education community should focus more strongly on investigating these avenues. ...
... At the same time, evolution education continues to struggle with a range of persistent problems of evolution understanding and acceptance among students and the general public (Barnes et al., 2017;Gregory, 2009;Heddy & Sinatra, 2013;Legare et al., 2018;Pobiner, 2016;Rosengren et al., 2012;Sinatra et al. 2008). In Hanisch & Eirdosh (2020b), we argue that these persistent problems may be linked, albeit in complex and as yet not fully understood ways, to the persistence of gene-centered as opposed to trait-centered, interdisciplinary approaches to evolution education. In this article, we review a range of examples across evolution education standards, assessment tools, and classroom materials that illustrate this persistence of gene-centered conceptualizations and resulting challenges. ...
... Persistent challenges to evolution understanding and acceptance and hypothesized contributions of a gene-centered approach in sustaining or exacerbating, rather than overcoming, these issues. See Hanisch & Eirdosh (2020b) for details. Implicit transfer of an idealized gene-centric model One area of conceptual difficulty that we have identified in Hanisch & Eirdosh (2020b) is the degree to which a gene-centric model of evolution pervades the framing of evolutionary concepts and choice of biological examples in such a way that it remains difficult to apply this conceptualization to areas of more complex evolutionary dynamics, including to the evolution of behavioral, cognitive and cultural phenotypes, particularly relevant in our own species. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Evolution education is, by default, the domain of biology education, and as such, historical conceptions of evolutionary change drawn from the Modern Synthesis strongly influence our conceptualization of what evolution is and how evolutionary analyses are to be conducted. There is a surface logic to this influence, however, it abstracts out a robust interdisciplinary scientific discourse that has been particularly productive during the 21st century. The continued conceptualization of evolution from the idealized, gene-centric, Modern Synthesis model may be problematic in terms of evolution understanding and acceptance. In this article, we take a closer look at some examples of current discourse, standards, educational materials, and assessment tools of evolution education and point out a number of challenges regarding how our field tends to frame the evolutionary analysis of, especially, human-related traits of behavior, cognition, and culture.
Article
Full-text available
Evolution education continues to struggle with a range of persistent challenges spanning aspects of conceptual understanding, acceptance, and perceived relevance of evolutionary theory by students in general education. This article argues that a gene-centered conceptualization of evolution may inherently limit the degree to which these challenges can be effectively addressed, and may even precisely contribute to and exacerbate these challenges. Against that background, we also argue that a trait-centered, generalized, and interdisciplinary conceptualization of evolution may hold significant learning potential for advancing progress in addressing some of these persistent challenges facing evolution education. We outline a number of testable hypotheses about the educational value of teaching evolutionary theory from this more generalized and interdisciplinary conception.
Preprint
Full-text available
Evolutionary theory in the 21st century has been embraced, albeit with varying degrees of controversy and consensus, across wide ranging disciplines. From biology and anthropology, to medicine, psychology, economics, sustainability science, computer science, and many more, core concepts of heritable variation and selection have been utilized by scientists across academia to understand change in the natural and social world. This article aims to provide evolution educators with a short review of current discourse in evolution science and a conceptual clarification of core concepts in evolutionary theory, in the service of promoting deeper and transferable understanding of these concepts in evolution education.
Article
Full-text available
We provide a brief overview of Prosocial: Using Evolutionary Science to Build Productive, Equitable, and Collaborative Groups by Paul Atkins, David Sloan Wilson, and Steven Hayes. The book offers a range of promising content for evolution education, and yet also highlights core conceptual challenges in modern evolution science discourse that educators and researchers aiming to improve evolution education may find beneficial to strategically engage with as a scientific community. We discuss these challenges and opportunities with a view towards implications for evolution education research and practice.
Preprint
Full-text available
Teleological reasoning is viewed as a major hurdle to evolution education, and yet, eliciting, interpreting, and reflecting upon teleological language presents an arguably greater challenge to the evolution educator and researcher. This article argues that making explicit the role of behavior as a causal factor in the evolution of particular traits may prove productive in helping students to link their everyday experience of behavior to evolutionary changes in populations in ways congruent with scientific perspectives. We present a teaching tool, used widely in other parts of science and science education, yet perhaps underutilized in human evolution education-the causal map-as a novel direction for driving conceptual change in the classroom about the nature of evolutionary change. After describing the scientific and conceptual basis for using such causal maps in human evolution education, we describe a classroom intervention within the context of a larger Design-Based Implementation Research (DBIR) project. An overview of the teacher-researcher collaborative design process and preliminary results from classroom interventions using causal maps within a human evolution unit are described. Initial results of the interventions indicate that causal maps allow students to make visible their causal reasoning about complex processes in human evolution, and can facilitate classroom reflection and conceptual change. Based on these insights, we offer considerations for future research and educational design.
Article
Full-text available
Biologists and philosophers of science have recently called for an extension of evolutionary theory. This so-called ‘extended evolutionary synthesis’ (EES) seeks to integrate developmental processes, extra-genetic forms of inheritance, and niche construction into evolutionary theory in a central way. While there is often agreement in evolutionary biology over the existence of these phenomena, their explanatory relevance is questioned. Advocates of EES posit that their perspective offers better explanations than those provided by ‘standard evolutionary theory’ (SET). Still, why this would be the case is unclear. Usually, such claims assume that EES’s superior explanatory status arises from the pluralist structure of EES, its different problem agenda, and a growing body of evidence for the evolutionary relevance of developmental phenomena (including developmental bias, inclusive inheritance, and niche construction). However, what is usually neglected in this debate is a discussion of what the explanatory standards of EES actually are, and how they differ from prevailing standards in SET. In other words, what is considered to be a good explanation in EES versus SET? To answer this question, we present a theoretical framework that evaluates the explanatory power of different evolutionary explanations of the same phenomena. This account is able to identify criteria for why and when evolutionary explanations of EES are better than those of SET. Such evaluations will enable evolutionary biology to find potential grounds for theoretical integration.
Article
Full-text available
Is it possible to teach biology without mentioning evolution? The answer is yes, but it is not possible for students to understand biology without the evolutionary context on which the meaning and intellectual value of biological concepts depend. Meaningful learning of evolution requires (1) that the students incorporate new knowledge into a cognitive structure linked with higher-order concepts; (2) a well-organized knowledge structure; and (3) a positive emotional attachment and identification (affective commitment) to the subject by the learner. Concept maps are useful tools in meaningful learning. We present a concept map that organizes concepts of history of life and the processes that generate it, and the hierarchical relationships among them. Biological evolution is a compelling account of life on Earth and of human origins. It constitutes a unifying explanatory framework that can generate a powerful affective commitment to the subject. The concept map provided here is tied to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
Article
Full-text available
Abstract Understanding evolution is critical to learning biology, but few college instructors take advantage of the body of peer-reviewed literature that can inform evolution teaching and assessment. Here we summarize the peer-reviewed papers on tools to assess student learning of evolutionary concepts. These published concept inventories provide a resource for instructors to design courses, gauge student preparation, identify key misconceptions in their student population, and measure the impact of a lesson, course, or broader curriculum on student learning. Because these inventories vary in their format, target audience, and degree of validation, we outline and explain these features. In addition to summarizing the published concept inventories on topics within evolution, we lay out a flexible framework to help instructors decide when and how to use them.
Article
Full-text available
Researchers in various contexts have long struggled with an apparent disconnect between an individual’s level of understanding of biological evolution and their acceptance of it as an explanation for the history and diversity of life. Here, we discuss the main factors associated with acceptance of evolution and chart a path forward for evolution education research.
Article
Full-text available
In biology education research, it has been common to model cognition in terms of relatively stable knowledge structures (e.g., mental models, alternative frameworks, deeply held misconceptions). For example, John D. Coley and Kimberley D. Tanner recently proposed that many student difficulties in biology stem from underlying cognitive frameworks called cognitive construals (CBE—Life Sciences Education, 11[3], 209–215 [2012]; CBE—Life Sciences Education, 14[1], ar8 [2015]). They argued that three such frameworks—teleology, anthropocentrism, and essentialism—cause undergraduate students to hold a range of misconceptions about the biological world. Our purpose in this article is to present an alternative perspective that considers student thinking to be dynamic and context sensitive. Using the example of cognitive construals, we argue that a dynamic perspective creates a burden of proof for claims of cognitive stability—to demonstrate that patterns of thinking are indeed stable across contexts. To illustrate our argument, we report on the results of a study designed to explore the stability of students’ apparent teleological, anthropocentric, and essentialist thinking. Our results are inconsistent with framework models. We propose instead that response patterns stem from students’ context-specific interpretations of the statements, consistent with dynamic models of cognition. Building on these preliminary findings, we discuss the implications of a dynamic view of cognition for biology education research and biology instruction.
Article
Full-text available
Background: While recent research indicates that using human examples can be an engaging way to teach core evolutionary concepts such as natural selection and phylogenetic thinking, teachers still face potential conflicts and challenges that arise from cultural barriers to teaching and learning about evolution. The “Teaching Evolution through Human Examples” (TEtHE) project developed (1) a set of four curriculum mini-units for advanced placement (A.P.) biology that use human examples to teach evolutionary principles (Adaptation to Altitude, Evolution of Human Skin Color, Malaria, and What Does It Mean To Be Human?), and (2) a cultural and religious sensitivity (CRS) teaching strategies resource that includes background materials and two in-class activities to help teachers create a classroom environment to increase student willingness to engage the topic. Methods: This paper reports on the development and field test of the TEtHE materials in A.P. biology classes in 10 schools in 8 states during the 2012–2013 school year using a design-based research framework (cf. Anderson and Shattuck in Educ Res 41:16–25, 2012). We chose A.P. classrooms to study the potential impacts of the materials in a “best case scenario” and analyzed data about understanding and acceptance of evolution from pre-post assessments in the 10 classrooms separately to mitigate potential validity concerns arising from the design (Anderson and Shat-tuck in Educ Res 41:16–25, 2012; Shadish et al. in Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inference. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2002). These data were treated as a secondary source of formative data to add additional perspective to teacher self-reports, observations, student and teacher questionnaires, teacher interviews, and student focus groups. Results: Results indicate that the use of the three curriculum mini-units which focus on natural selection and the CRS classroom activities generally increased A.P. biology students’ understanding and acceptance of evolution. Students whose teachers used one of the CRS activities showed generally larger increases in understanding of evolution than those whose teachers did not use one of the CRS activities. Conclusions: Although the utility of using human examples to teach evolution in college-level classes has been demonstrated in a few previous studies, this is the first national project of which we are aware to systematically explore the effect of a similar approach in high school biology classes. While we recognize that the results may be mitigated by the limitations of design-based research, particularly the absence of a comparison or control group, the general effectiveness of this approach suggested by qualitative and quantitative data in increasing student understanding and acceptance of evolution suggests that using human examples and explicitly creating a classroom environment to help students engage the topic of evolution are worth considering for further development and more robust testing.
Article
Full-text available
Evolution is a unifying theory in biology and is challenging for undergraduates to learn. An instructor’s ability to help students learn is influenced by pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), which is topic-specific knowledge of teaching and learning. Instructors need PCK for every topic they teach, which is a tremendous body of knowledge to develop alone. However, investigations of undergraduate thinking and learning have produced collective PCK that is available in peer-reviewed literature. Currently, it is unclear whether the collective PCK available adequately addresses the topics in evolution that college instructors teach. We systematically examined existing literature to determine what collective PCK for teaching evolution is available and what is missing. We conducted an exhaustive literature search and analyzed 316 relevant papers to determine: the evolutionary topics addressed; whether the focus was student thinking, assessment, instructional strategies, or goals; and the type of work (e.g., empirical, literature review). We compared the collective PCK available in the literature with the topics taught in a sample of 32 undergraduate evolution courses around the country. On the basis of our findings, we propose priorities for the evolution education research community and propose that PCK is a useful lens for guiding future research on teaching and learning biology. © 2018 M. A. Ziadie and T. C. Andrews. CBE—Life Sciences Education and 2018 The American Society for Cell Biology.
Article
Full-text available
The theory of evolution by natural selection has begun to revolutionize our understanding of perception, cognition, language, social behavior, and cultural practices. Despite the centrality of evolutionary theory to the social sciences, many students, teachers, and even scientists struggle to understand how natural selection works. Our goal is to provide a field guide for social scientists on teaching evolution, based on research in cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and education. We synthesize what is known about the psychological obstacles to understanding evolution, methods for assessing evolution understanding, and pedagogical strategies for improving evolution understanding. We review what is known about teaching evolution about nonhuman species and then explore implications of these findings for the teaching of evolution about humans. By leveraging our knowledge of how to teach evolution in general, we hope to motivate and equip social scientists to begin teaching evolution in the context of their own field.
Article
Full-text available
Background How acceptance of evolution relates to understanding of evolution remains controversial despite decades of research. It even remains unclear whether cultural/attitudinal factors or cognitive factors have a greater impact on student ability to learn evolutionary biology. This study examined the influence of cultural/attitudinal factors (religiosity, acceptance of evolution, and parents’ attitudes towards evolution) and cognitive factors (teleological reasoning and prior understanding of natural selection) on students’ learning of natural selection over a semester-long undergraduate course in evolutionary medicine. Method Pre-post course surveys measured cognitive factors, including teleological reasoning and prior understanding of natural selection, and also cultural/attitudinal factors, including acceptance of evolution, parent attitudes towards evolution, and religiosity. We analyzed how these measures influenced increased understanding of natural selection over the semester. ResultsAfter controlling for other related variables, parent attitude towards evolution and religiosity predicted students’ acceptance of evolution, but did not predict students’ learning gains of natural selection over the semester. Conversely, lower levels of teleological reasoning predicted learning gains in understanding natural selection over the course, but did not predict students’ acceptance of evolution. Conclusions Acceptance of evolution did not predict students’ ability to learn natural selection over a semester in an evolutionary medicine course. However, teleological reasoning did impact students’ ability to learn natural selection.
Article
Full-text available
Twenty-first century biology rejects genetic determinism, yet an exaggerated view of the power of genes in the making of bodies and minds remains a problem. What accounts for such tenacity? This article reports an exploratory study suggesting that the common reliance on Mendelian examples and concepts at the start of teaching in basic genetics is an eliminable source of determinism. Undergraduate students who attended a standard “Mendelian approach” university course in introductory genetics on average showed no change in their determinist views about genes. By contrast, students who attended an alternative course which, inspired by the work of a critic of early Mendelism, W. F. R. Weldon (1860-1906), replaced an emphasis on Mendel’s peas with an emphasis on developmental contexts and their role in bringing about phenotypic variability, were less determinist about genes by the end of teaching. Improvements in both the new Weldonian curriculum and the study design are in view for the future.
Article
Full-text available
Natural selection is frequently misunderstood by students and the general public. Research in psychology and human development has shown that our thought patterns are structured in ways that predispose us to misunderstand processes like selection. Natural selection is an emergent process where patterns of interaction between individuals in a group result in collective patterns or behaviors that may be surprising or unexpected. For example, flocking behavior in starlings, schooling behavior in fish, and mound construction by termites are complex collective behaviors that result from local interactions between individual members of the group. Similarly, patterns of evolutionary adaptation and extinction in populations can be explained by local interactions between members of the population and between those members and the other species with which they interact. Helping students understand natural selection as an emergent process should improve their understanding of the process. This paper reviews some studies that have shown this to be an effective approach for teaching other emergent processes. Instructional recommendations based on these studies are presented here, but more research is needed to determine the full extent to which this approach can improve students’ understanding.
Article
Full-text available
Niche Construction Theory (NCT) provides a powerful conceptual framework for understanding how and why humans and target species entered into domesticatory relationships that have transformed Earth’s biota, landforms, and atmosphere, and shaped the trajectory of human cultural development. NCT provides fresh perspective on how niche-constructing behaviors of humans and plants and animals promote co-evolutionary interactions that alter selection pressures and foster genetic responses in domesticates. It illuminates the role of niche-altering activities in bequeathing an ecological inheritance that perpetuates the co-evolutionary relationships leading to domestication, especially as it pertains to traditional ecological knowledge and the transmission of learned behaviors aimed at enhancing returns from local environments. NCT also provides insights into the contexts and mechanisms that promote cooperative interactions in both humans and target species needed to sustain niche-constructing activities, ensuring that these activities produce an ecological inheritance in which domesticates play an increasing role. A NCT perspective contributes to on-going debates in the social sciences over explanatory frameworks for domestication, in particular as they pertain to issues of reciprocal causation, co-evolution, and the role of human intentionality. Reciprocally, domestication provides a model system for evaluating on-going debates in evolutionary biology concerning the impact of niche construction, phenotypic plasticity, extra-genetic inheritance, and developmental bias in shaping the direction and tempo of evolutionary change.
Article
Full-text available
Questions about our origin as a species are universal and compelling. Evolution-and in particular human evolution-is a subject that generates intense interest across the world, evidenced by the fact that fossil and DNA discoveries grace the covers of major science journals and magazines as well as other popular print and online media. However, virtually all national polls indicate that the majority of Americans strongly reject biological evolution as a fact-based, well-tested, and robust understanding of the history of life. In the popular mind, no topic in all of science is more contentious or polarizing than evolution and media sources often only serve to magnify this polarization by covering challenges to the teaching of evolution. In the realm of teaching, debates about evolution have shaped textbooks, curricula, standards, and policy. Challenges to accepting and understanding evolution include mistrust and denial of science, cognitive obstacles and misconceptions, language and terminology, and a religious worldview, among others. Teachers, who are on the front lines of these challenges, must be armed with the tools and techniques to teach evolution in formal education settings across grades K-16 in a straightforward, thorough, and sensitive way. Despite the potentially controversial topic of human evolution, growing research is demonstrating that a pedagogical focus on human examples is an effective and engaging way to teach core concepts of evolutionary biology. Am J Phys Anthropol 159:S232-S274, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Article
Full-text available
Scientific activities take place within the structured sets of ideas and assumptions that define a field and its practices. The conceptual framework of evolutionary biology emerged with the Modern Synthesis in the early twentieth century and has since expanded into a highly successful research program to explore the processes of diversification and adaptation. Nonetheless, the ability of that framework satisfactorily to accommodate the rapid advances in developmental biology, genomics and ecology has been questioned. We review some of these arguments, focusing on literatures (evo-devo, developmental plasticity, inclusive inheritance and niche construction) whose implications for evolution can be interpreted in two ways-one that preserves the internal structure of contemporary evolutionary theory and one that points towards an alternative conceptual framework. The latter, which we label the 'extended evolutionary synthesis' (EES), retains the fundaments of evolutionary theory, but differs in its emphasis on the role of constructive processes in development and evolution, and reciprocal portrayals of causation. In the EES, developmental processes, operating through developmental bias, inclusive inheritance and niche construction, share responsibility for the direction and rate of evolution, the origin of character variation and organism-environment complementarity. We spell out the structure, core assumptions and novel predictions of the EES, and show how it can be deployed to stimulate and advance research in those fields that study or use evolutionary biology. © 2015 The Author(s).
Article
Full-text available
Abstract Background: Previous work found four areas critical to understanding evolution: variation, selection, inheritance, and deep time. Methods: An exploratory qualitative approach was taken with a variety of data sources from a larger data corpus. Data were analyzed for emphasis of either decentralized or centralized thinking. Data were analyzed and discussed exploring how a group of high school biology teachers from the same department taught evolutionary concepts. Results: The paper presents evidence that demonstrates a common lack of thinking from this perspective or incorrectly thinking that evolutionary processes are “driven” by some centralized force. Conclusions: We now identify a critical fifth component: decentralized mindset or thinking of evolution as a complex system. Possibilities of how this new area can affect learning about evolution are discussed and implications for assessment are also discussed.
Article
Full-text available
Theory and empirical data from a variety of disciplines strongly imply that recent human history involves extensive gene-culture coevolution, much of it as a direct result of human agricultural practices. Here we draw on niche-construction theory (NCT) and gene-culture coevolutionary theory (GCT) to propose a broad theoretical framework (NCT-GCT) with which archaeologists and anthropologists can explore coevolutionary dynamics. Humans are enormously potent niche constructors, and understanding how niche construction regulates ecosystem dynamics is central to understanding the impact of human populations on their ecological and developmental environments. We use as primary examples the evolution of dairying by Neolithic groups in Europe and Africa and the rise of the “sickle-cell allele” among certain agricultural groups in West Africa and suggest that these examples are broadly representative of much of human recent history. Although the core aspects of these case studies are familiar, we lay out the examples with a specific NCT-GCT focus, which allows us to highlight how archaeology, when coupled with genetic research, can play an important role in better understanding human history. Finally, we suggest that the NCT-GCT perspective is likely to be of widespread general utility because it inherently promotes consideratiwon of the active agency of humans, and other organisms, in modifying their ecological and developmental niches and naturally draws attention to the various forms of feedback that flow from human activities at multiple levels, in multiple populations, and across multiple species.
Article
Full-text available
An anonymous survey instrument was used for a ten year study to gauge college student attitudes toward evolution. Results indicate that students are most likely to accept evolu- tion as a historical process for change in physical features of non-human organisms. They are less likely to accept evolution as an ongoing process that shapes all traits (including biochemical, physiological, and behavioral) in humans. Students who fail to accept the factual nature of human evolution do not gain an accurate view of evolution, let alone modern biology. Fortunately, because of students' natural curiosity about their bodies and related topics (e.g., medicine, vestigial features, human prehistory), a pedagogical focus on human evolution provides a fun and effective way to teach core evolutionary concepts, as quantified by the survey. Results of the study are presented along with useful case studies involving human evolution.
Article
Full-text available
Natural information processing systems such as biological evolution and human cognition organize information used to govern the activities of natural entities. When dealing with biologically secondary information, these systems can be specified by five common principles that we propose underlie natural information processing systems. The principles equate: (1) human long-term memory with a genome; (2) learning from other humans with biological reproduction; (3) problem solving through random generate and test with random mutation; (4) working memory when processing novel information with the epigenetic system managing environmental information; (5) long-term working memory with the epigenetic system managing genomic information. These five principles provide an integrated perspective for the nature of human learning and thought. They also have implications for the presentation of information.
Article
Full-text available
Adults tend to like individuals who are similar to themselves, and a growing body of recent research suggests that even infants and young children prefer individuals who share their attributes or personal tastes over those who do not. In this study, we examined the nature and development of attitudes toward similar and dissimilar others in human infancy. Across two experiments with combined samples of more than 200 infant participants, we found that 9- and 14-month-old infants prefer individuals who treat similar others well and treat dissimilar others poorly. A developmental trend was observed, such that 14-month-olds' responses were more robust than were 9-month-olds'. These findings suggest that the identification of common and contrasting personal attributes influences social attitudes and judgments in powerful ways, even very early in life.
Article
Full-text available
In the classical theory of biometrical genetics, the genotype determines the phenotype of an individual, the effect of the environment is not recognized as a dynamic factor. The concept that the phenotype is the result of development of an individual in a certain environment and that the genotype provides the mode of reaction, but the environment provides the challenges and the conditions of development, is basic to genetic thinking; but in the classical models of biometrical genetics the representation of this interaction is usually absent or limited to the evaluation of genotypic environment interaction variances. In experimental situations, such as are possible with plants and animals, the classical model may usually suffice. The simplicity of the model is then still adequate because suitable experimental designs can help minimize or evaluate genotype environment interactions. In nonexperimental situations, as are usual in man, this approach seems unsatisfactory especially for behavioral traits, where it is clear that the phenotype is the consequence of a long and complex learning process. Formalization of the contribution of cultural transmission to a trait is possible, and the authors investigated the consequences of parent offspring cultural transmission. Their model also includes genetic variation of various kinds. It thus encompasses a variety of models, from one extreme of pure cultural transmission to the other of pure biological transmission. This last model is that of classical biometrical genetics. The major hope of analysis of real data comes from the parallel study of covariances of adoptive and biological relatives. Even through this method has practical limitations, ot is basic to a proper understanding if inheritance, especially for behavioral traits.
Article
Full-text available
This paper discusses some traditional approaches to the teaching of evolutionary theory at pre-university level, criticising in particular some of the more commonly used models and exemplars. Curricular demands are described and an alternative approach is suggested, using the emerging story of human evolution. Recent discoveries help to illustrate that this is alsoan active area of research interest. Approaches to discussions of scientific scepticism and also to unpicking and understanding scientific language are suggested to help empower students' engagement with a difficult area of their biological education.
Article
Full-text available
The theory of evolution is poorly understood in the population at large, even by those with some science education. The recurrent misunderstandings can be partly attributed to failure to distinguish between processes which individual organisms undergo and those which populations undergo. They may be so pervasive because we usually explain evolutionary ideas with examples from non-human animals, and our everyday cognition about animals does not track individuals as distinct from the species to which they belong. By contrast, everyday cognition about other people tracks unique individuals as well as general properties of humans. In Study 1, I present experimental evidence that categorization by species occurs more strongly for non-human animals than for other people in 50 British university students. In Study 2, I show, in the same population, that framing evolutionary scenarios in terms of people produces fewer conceptual errors than when logically identical scenarios are framed terms of non-human animals. I conclude that public understanding of evolution might be improved if we began instruction by considering the organisms which are most familiar to us.
Article
Full-text available
Understanding scientific phenomena in terms of complex systems principles is both scientifically and pedagogically important. Situations from different disciplines of science are often governed by the same principle, and so promoting knowledge transfer across disciplines makes valuable cross-fertilization and scientific unification possible. Although evidence for this kind of transfer has historically been controversial, experiments and observations of students suggest pedagogical methods for promoting transfer of complex systems principles. One powerful strategy is for students to actively interpret the elements and interactions of perceptually grounded scenarios. Such interpretation can be facilitated through the presentation of a situation alongside a description of how the agents in the situation are behaving, and by students exploring and constructing computational models of the situation. The resulting knowledge can be both concretely grounded yet highly perspective dependent and generalizeable. We discuss methods for coordinating computational and mental models of complex systems, the roles of idealization and concreteness in fostering understanding and generalization, and other complementary theoretical approaches to achieving transfer.
Article
Children's mindsets about intelligence (as a quality they can grow vs. a trait they cannot change) robustly influence their motivation and achievement. How do adults foster "growth mindsets" in children? One might assume that adults act in ways that communicate their own mindsets to children. However, new research shows that many parents and teachers with growth mindsets are not passing them on. This article presents a new perspective on why this is the case, and reviews research on adult practices that do instill growth mindsets, concluding that a sustained focus on the process of learning is critical. After discussing key implications and promising future directions, we consider the topic in the context of important societal issues, like high-stakes testing.
Book
Since the original publication of this seminal work, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) has come into its own as a widely practiced approach to helping people change. This book provides the definitive statement of ACT—from conceptual and empirical foundations to clinical techniques—written by its originators. ACT is based on the idea that psychological rigidity is a root cause of a wide range of clinical problems. The authors describe effective, innovative ways to cultivate psychological flexibility by detecting and targeting six key processes: defusion, acceptance, attention to the present moment, self-awareness, values, and committed action. Sample therapeutic exercises and patient–therapist dialogues are integrated throughout. New to This Edition *Reflects tremendous advances in ACT clinical applications, theory building, and research. *Psychological flexibility is now the central organizing focus. *Expanded coverage of mindfulness, the therapeutic relationship, relational learning, and case formulation. *Restructured to be more clinician friendly and accessible; focuses on the moment-by-moment process of therapy.
Article
Ideas about heredity and evolution are undergoing a revolutionary change. New findings in molecular biology challenge the gene-centered version of Darwinian theory according to which adaptation occurs only through natural selection of chance DNA variations. In Evolution in Four Dimensions, Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb argue that there is more to heredity than genes. They trace four “dimensions” in evolution—four inheritance systems that play a role in evolution: Genetic, epigenetic (or non-DNA cellular transmission of traits), behavioral, and symbolic (transmission through language and other forms of symbolic communication). These systems, they argue, can all provide variations on which natural selection can act. Evolution in Four Dimensions offers a richer, more complex view of evolution than the gene-based, one-dimensional view held by many today. The new synthesis advanced by Jablonka and Lamb makes clear that induced and acquired changes also play a role in evolution. After discussing each of the four inheritance systems in detail, Jablonka and Lamb “put Humpty Dumpty together again” by showing how all of these systems interact. They consider how each may have originated and guided evolutionary history and they discuss the social and philosophical implications of the four-dimensional view of evolution. Each chapter ends with a dialogue in which the authors engage the contrarieties of the fictional (and skeptical) “I.M.,” or Ifcha Mistabra—Aramaic for “the opposite conjecture”—refining their arguments against I.M.’s vigorous counterarguments. The lucid and accessible text is accompanied by artist–physician Anna Zeligowski’s lively drawings, which humorously and effectively illustrate the authors’ points. © 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All rights reserved.
Article
Using samples from three diverse populations, we test evolutionary hypotheses regarding how people reason about the inheritance of various traits. First, we provide a framework for differentiat-ing the outputs of mechanisms that evolved for reasoning about variation within and between (a) biological taxa and (b) culturally evolved ethnic categories from (c) a broader set of beliefs and categories that are the outputs of structured learning mechanisms. Second, we describe the results of a modified "switched-at-birth" vignette study that we administered among children and adults in Puno (Peru), Yasawa (Fiji), and adults in the United States. This protocol permits us to study perceptions of prenatal and social transmission pathways for various traits and to differentiate the latter into vertical (i.e., parental) versus horizontal (i.e., peer) cultural influence. These lines of evidence suggest that people use all three mechanisms to reason about the distribution of traits in the population. Participants at all three sites develop expectations that morphological traits are under prenatal influence, and that belief traits are more culturally influenced. On the other hand, each population holds culturally specific beliefs about the degree of social influence on non-morphological traits and about the degree of vertical transmission-with only participants in the United States expecting parents to have much social influence over their children. We reinterpret people's differentiation of trait transmission pathways in light of humans' evolutionary history as a cultural species.
Article
The joint exploitation of open-access natural resources is often modeled as a social dilemma with no escape for rational actors. Nevertheless, real individuals are not helplessly trapped in this dilemma and are often able to sustainably manage their commons by building endogenous institutions. This paper proposes both a simple analytical model and a more complex agent-based one designed to study common-pool resource management problems with a specific focus on the relation between agents' beliefs and institutions. The conditions where agents are allowed to build management institutions lead to much better outcomes than the ones where agents can only rely on individual beliefs in order to limit the resource consumption. This happens despite the fact that agents act in a competitive environment favoring high resource consumers.
Article
We use an agent-based model to analyze the effects of spatial heterogeneity and agents’ mobility on social–ecological outcomes. Our model is a stylized representation of a dynamic population of agents moving and harvesting a renewable resource. Cooperators (agents who harvest an amount close to the maximum sustainable yield) and selfish agents (those who harvest an amount greater than the sustainable yield) are simulated in the model. Three indicators of the outcomes of the system are analyzed: the number of settlements, the resource level, and the proportion of cooperators in the population. Our paper adds a more realistic approach to previous studies on the evolution of cooperation by considering a social–ecological system in which agents move in a landscape to harvest a renewable resource. Our results conclude that resource dynamics play an important role when studying levels of cooperation and resource use. Our simulations show that the agents’ mobility significantly affects the outcomes of the system. This response is nonlinear and very sensible to the type of spatial distribution of the resource richness. In our simulations, better outcomes of long-term sustainability of the resource are obtained with moderate agent mobility and cooperation is enhanced in harsh environments with low resource level in which cooperative groups have natural boundaries fostered by agents’ low mobility.
Data
Teaching and learning about complex scientific content, such as biological evolution, is challenging in part because students have a difficult time seeing the relevance of evolution in their everyday lives. The purpose of this study was to explore the effectiveness of the Teaching for Transformative Experiences in Science (TTES) model (Pugh, 2002) for facilitating conceptual change and positive affect in college students learning about evolution. Fifty-five undergraduates experienced instruction on six key evolution concepts (adaptation, variation, inheritance, speciation, domestication, and extinction). Instruction enhanced with the TTES model was compared to a conceptual change intervention, using refutation text and discussion. Outcomes were assessed using the Evolutionary Reason-ing Scale (Shtulman, 2006), the Transformative Experience Survey (Pugh, Linnenbrink-Garcia, Koskey, Stewart, & Manzey, 2010a), and the Evolution Emotions Survey. The results showed that the group that experienced the TTES model showed higher levels of transformative experience and greater conceptual change than the comparison group. In addition, the treatment group showed an increase in enjoyment of the evolution content over the course of instruction. Implications for transformative experience as a conceptual change pedagogical technique are discussed. C
Article
This paper advocates the application of established teaching models to the professional development of biology teachers. This is achieved by using the analogy of conceptual ecologies, made explicit through concept mapping. The approach is designed to support teachers' developing understanding of pupils' conceptual change by using familiar terminology and biological analogies. Monitoring of students' understanding at an ecosystemic level may also help distinguish between instances of conceptual change and contextual switching (described here with reference to photosynthesis).
Article
According to the theory of 'promiscuous teleology', humans are naturally biased to (mistakenly) construe natural kinds as if they (like artifacts) were intentionally designed 'for a purpose'. However, this theory introduces two paradoxes. First, if infants readily distinguish natural kinds from artifacts, as evidence suggests, why do school-aged children erroneously conflate this distinction? Second, if Western scientific education is required to overcome promiscuous teleological reasoning, how can one account for the ecological expertise of non-Western educated, indigenous people? Here, we develop an alternative 'relational-deictic' interpretation, proposing that the teleological stance may not index a deep-rooted belief that nature was designed for a purpose, but instead may reflect an appreciation of the perspectival relations among living things and their environments.
Book
Charles Darwin changed the course of scientific thinking by showing how evolution accounts for the stunning diversity and biological complexity of life on earth. Recently, there has also been increased interest in the social sciences in how Darwinian theory can explain human culture. Covering a wide range of topics, including fads, public policy, the spread of religion, and herd behavior in markets, Alex Mesoudi shows that human culture is itself an evolutionary process that exhibits the key Darwinian mechanisms of variation, competition, and inheritance. This cross-disciplinary volume focuses on the ways cultural phenomena can be studied scientifically - from theoretical modeling to lab experiments, archaeological fieldwork to ethnographic studies - and shows how apparently disparate methods can complement one another to the mutual benefit of the various social science disciplines. Along the way, this book reveals how new insights arise from looking at culture from an evolutionary angle. "Cultural Evolution" provides a thought-provoking argument that Darwinian evolutionary theory can both unify different branches of inquiry and enhance understanding of human behavior.
Article
Ethnocentrism is a nearly universal syndrome of attitudes and behaviors, typically including in-group favoritism. Empirical evidence suggests that a predisposition to favor in-groups can be easily triggered by even arbitrary group distinctions and that preferential cooperation within groups occurs even when it is individually costly. The authors study the emergence and robustness of ethnocentric behaviors of in-group favoritism, using an agent-based evolutionary model. They show that such behaviors can become widespread under a broad range of conditions and can support very high levels of cooperation, even in one-move prisoner’s dilemma games. When cooperation is especially costly to individuals, the authors show how ethnocentrism itself can be necessary to sustain cooperation.
Book
Evolution Challenges: Integrating Research and Practice in Teaching and Learning about Evolution goes beyond the science versus religion dispute to ask why evolution is so often rejected as a legitimate scientific fact, focusing on a wide range of cognitive, socio-cultural, and motivational factors that make concepts such as evolution difficult to grasp. The volume brings together researchers with diverse backgrounds in cognitive development and education to examine children's and adults' thinking, learning, and motivation, and how aspects of representational and symbolic knowledge influence learning about evolution. The book is organized around three main challenges inherent in teaching and learning evolutionary concepts: folk theories and conceptual biases, motivational and epistemological biases, and educational aspects in both formal and informal settings. Commentaries across the three main themes tie the book together thematically, and contributors provide ideas for future research and methods for improving the manner in which evolutionary concepts are conveyed in the classroom and in informal learning experiences. Evolution Challenges is a unique text that extends far beyond the traditional evolution debate and is an invaluable resource to researchers in cognitive development, science education and the philosophy of science, science teachers, and exhibit and curriculum developers.
Article
Over the past several decades, there has been a tremendous growth in our understanding of genetic phenomena and the intricate and complicated mechanisms that mediate genetic effects. Given the complexity of content in modern genetics and the inadequacy of current instructional methods and materials it seems that a more coherent and extensive approach to teaching modern genetics is needed. Learning progressions provide such an approach by describing the learning of core concepts in a domain as it unfolds over multiple grades and grade bands. In this paper we suggest a learning progression for modern genetics that spans grades 5–10. We describe the learning progression in terms of three key aspects of teaching and learning modern genetics: (1) the big ideas in modern genetics, and the knowledge and abilities that students should master by the end of compulsory education; and (2) the progression of learning that students are expected to make over several grades; and (3) the identification of learning performances and development of assessments for the proposed progression. We conclude by identifying the implications for instruction and research that stem from our analysis of the research base in genetics education, and our development of a theoretical progression for learning the big ideas in modern genetics. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 46: 655–674, 2009