Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Teaching Evolution: A Heuristic Study of Personal and Cultural Dissonance
by Grimes, Larry G., Ed.D., University of the Pacific, 2012, 329; 3519782
Abstract (Summary)

Darwinian evolution is a robustly supported scientific theory. Yet creationists continue to challenge its teaching in American public schools. Biology teachers in all 50 states are responsible for teaching science content standards that include evolution. As products of their backgrounds and affiliations teachers bring personal attitudes and beliefs to their teaching. The purpose of this study was to explore how biology teachers perceive, describe, and value their teaching of evolution. This research question was explored through a heuristic qualitative methodology. Eight veteran California high school biology teachers were queried as to their beliefs, perceptions, experiences and practices of teaching evolution. Both personal and professional documents were collected. Data was presented in the form of biographical essays that highlight teachers' backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and practices of teaching evolution. Of special interest was how they describe pressure over teaching evolution during a decade of standards and No Child Left Behind high-stakes testing mandates.

Five common themes emerged. Standards have increased the overall amount of evolution that is taught. High-stakes testing has decreased the depth at which evolution is taught. Teacher belief systems strongly influence how evolution is taught. Fear of creationist challenges effect evolution teaching strategies. And lastly, concern over the potential effects of teaching evolution on student worldviews was mixed. Three categories of teacher concern over the potential impact of evolution on student worldviews were identified: Concerned, Strategist, and Carefree. In the final analysis teacher beliefs and attitudes still appeared to he the most important factor influencing how evolution is taught.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Nelson, Thomas G.
Commitee:
School: University of the Pacific
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Philosophy of Science, Evolution and Development, Science education
Keywords: Creationism, Cultural dissonance, Evolution, Heuristics, Qualitative methodology, Science and religion
Publication Number: 3519782
ISBN: 9781267493996
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