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News

A new way to teach evolution

University Of Wisconsin-Madison : 23 November, 2000  (New Product)
A new take on teaching evolution in public schools, an issue stoked
white-hot by the recent decision of the Kansas state board of education,
can be found in a high school course developed at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. The difference between this course and those typically
taught across America is the difference between learning by rote and by
discovery.
A new take on teaching evolution in public schools, an issue stoked
white-hot by the recent decision of the Kansas state board of education,
can be found in a high school course developed at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. The difference between this course and those typically
taught across America is the difference between learning by rote and by
discovery.

A team of researchers and teachers at the National Center for Improving
Student Learning in Mathematics and Science has designed a nine-week course
on evolutionary biology. Going into its third year at Wisconsin's Monona
Grove High School, the course is the focus of a study led by researcher Jim
Stewart and teacher-researchers Cindy Passmore and Sue Johnson.

Unlike most instruction on evolution, this one teaches evolutionary biology
as an investigative process, like real science, instead of the
traditional read-and-memorize approach. Most American adults learned the
definition-crammed textbook version of evolutionary biology, often leaving
school with a very foggy picture of what science is really about. Few
learned science as a process that allows them to inquire about their world.

The course taught at Monona Grove challenges students to grapple with three
historical explanations for the origins of species. Working in research
teams, students also fashion their own explanations of species diversity
based on scientific data and Darwin's theory of natural selection.

In assessing the Monona Grove students taking the course, UW-Madison
researchers have found that they clearly have a more sophisticated
understanding of natural selection than do students in a traditional
classroom. After further refining of the course this year, the UW-Madison
team will place the course materials on the web for anyone to download.
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