Last month, the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology published an article that a lot of high school biology teachers might want to take a look at, to refresh themselves in their work – Teaching evolution (and all of biology) more effectively: Strategies for engagement, critical reasoning, and confronting misconceptions. It’s subscription only, but contact me if that’s a difficulty.
My reaction though to the article is that it is vaguely (but not overtly) erroneous. For instance, they describe strategies for teaching “understanding and acceptance” of evolution. Of course biology teachers are obligated to see that their students understand evolution. And yes, understanding the simplicity and straightforwardness of Descent With Modification and its corollaries will probably lead students to accept Evolution over Creationism (or the students may simply engage in rote memorization, etc., as opposed to increased understanding of biology). But using the word “accept” as an immediate objective does sound like “indoctrination to atheism.” It’s not, clearly, but that’s what it would sound like to people who imagine the end of life as they know it if they turn away from whatever god they worship.
Moreover, the article starts off with (in the Intro) with: “It is also helpful to bridge the false dichotomy, seen by many students, between atheistic evolution versus religious creationism.” That’s verging on dishonest as science is non-theistic. That’s not the same thing as atheistic, true, but it is an explanatory framework that requires you leave your god at the door, momentarily at least.
Just about every other aspect of the article is outstanding however, focusing on engagement and critical thinking, as the title suggests. I’m not too knowledgeable on pedagogical strategies, but any scientist can tell you the value of teaching students methodology in science. Teach them how to design and run experiments in order to compare and contrast alternative explanations for a given phenomenon, and work on building skills of questioning one’s own assumptions as part of the critical thinking process.
Nelson, Craig E. (2008) Integrative and Comparative Biology, 48(2):213-225; doi:10.1093/icb/icn027
And of course, for correcting misconceptions, check out Talk Origins.