Scharmann, LC (2005). A proactive strategy for teaching evolution. The American Biology Teacher, 67(1), 12-16.

This article concerned the topic of teaching evolution to high school students, which was of much interest to me because I am going to be teaching the topic in the winter and I am concerned because my students are very religious, and might be closed off to learning about the topic. I believe that evolution is one of the most important concepts of biology that students can learn about, and because of this I would like to learn different ways of opening the minds of my students up to learning about it.

The author begins this article by stating that one of the largest problems with teaching evolution is that students have a hard time finding relevance to the topic in their everyday lives, and instead simply think of it as a theory that conflicts with their religious view of the world. The author makes note that this means that the most important job of a teacher is to show students how important it is for them to understand evolutionary theory, and to see how the use of this theory is essential to many parts of a students life.

One of the interesting points that the author argues is that it is that students need not believe in evolutionary theory, they simply need to understand how it works, and they need to understand that it is a tool that scientists use to solve problems and explain phenomena. The author states that the most difficult task that a teacher has when introducing evolution is convincing the student that evolution is a tool, and by using it they are not rejecting their religious beliefs. The author notes that it can be very difficult for students to accept theories that contradict personal or family values, and that if a teacher is going to succeed in introducing evolution it is helpful to use student lead discussion techniques.

The author recommends that teachers use student lead group discussion when introducing the topic of evolution. He lists many questions that students can focus on which include thinking about what they have previously learned or heard about evolution, thinking about any explanations that contradict the theory of evolution, if there are any aspects of evolutionary theory that causes the student any concerns, as well as if there are any reasons why students should or shouldn’t learn about evolution. The author recommends having small group discussions about these questions, making sure that the teacher only interjects to remind students that they are to respect all other student beliefs.

After this initial student lead discussion the author recommends that the teacher addresses some of the misconceptions that the students had during the discussion, especially discussing the different types of “knowing” (religious, scientific). The author then recommends that the teacher discusses the use of evolutionary theory in the development of antibiotics, herbicides/pesticides, and agriculture. The author notes that it isn’t essential that students believe in the theory of evolution, but instead they realize how the theory is used throughout society and about how the theory fits into scientific discovery.

I thought that this article was very interesting and helpful because it gave me some great ideas about how I should discuss the theory of evolution in my own classroom. The only thing that I wish the author had added to the article was how to address the topic of intelligent design. I feel that my students are going to have a lot of questions concerning intelligent design, and I think that it would have been helpful if the author gave specific advice concerning this. Overall however I think that the design of the lesson was spectacular and I can’t wait to engage in such interesting conversations with my students.