Evolution Education Research
I am currently leading the Learning Unity and Diversity in Alabama (LUDA) project, funded by the National Science Foundation. This is a second phase of the Teaching Evolution through Human Examples (TEtHE) project, which was a 3-year exploratory project funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) DRK-12 grant. That project created 4 curriculum supplements for Advanced Placement Biology using human examples to teach evolution and a Cultural and Religious Sensitivity (CRS) Teaching Strategies Resource to help teachers create a supportive classroom environment for teaching evolution. Those materials are freely downloadable on the TEtHE page on the Smithsonian Human Origins website, where you can also find links to open-access publications about our research from April 2018 and January 2019.
Building on the success of these materials in increasing AP Biology students’ understanding of and interest in evolution, the 5-year LUDA project has created, and field tested, and is currently implementing, two curriculum units for introductory biology (one that uses human examples to teach evolution and one that uses parallel nonhuman examples) and refining for introductory biology, field testing, and implementing the current CRS Resource. As the new Alabama state science standards accepted in September 2015 explicitly include evolution for the first time, the LUDA curricular units are aligned to the new Alabama biology standards in grades 9–12: specifically, the standards within the fourth core idea—Unity and Diversity—which examines the variation of traits within a population over a long period of time that results in diversity among organisms. The project is evaluating the relative efficacy of the human and non-human focused units—each with and without classroom activities outlined in the CRS Resource—in increasing introductory biology students’ understanding and acceptance of evolution and teachers’ comfort and confidence in teaching evolution. A main goal of the project is to work with Alabama teachers to design curriculum materials that are sensitive to students’ beliefs while still helping them understand the core evolutionary concepts.