Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The ABCs of an evolutionary education science: The academic, behavioral, and cultural implications of an evolutionary approach to education theory and practice
by Kauffman, Richard A., Jr., Ph.D., State University of New York at Binghamton, 2014, 349; 3630896
Abstract (Summary)

Calls for improving research-informed policy in education are everywhere. Yet, while there is an increasing trend towards science-based practice, there remains little agreement over which of the sciences to consult and how to organize a collective effort between them. What Education lacks is a general theoretical framework through which policies can be constructed, implemented, and assessed. This dissertation submits that evolutionary theory can provide a suitable framework for coordinating educational policies and practice, and can provide the entire field of education with a clearer sense of how to better manage the learning environment.

This dissertation explores two broad paths that outline the conceptual foundations for an Evolutionary Education Science: "Teaching Evolution" and "Using Evolution to Teach." Chapter 1 introduces both of these themes. After describing why evolutionary science is best suited for organizing education research and practice, Chapter 1 proceeds to "teach" an overview of the "evolutionary toolkit"—the mechanisms and principles that underlie the modern evolutionary perspective. The chapter then employs the "toolkit" in examining education from an evolutionary perspective, outlining the evolutionary precepts that can guide theorizing and research in education, describing how educators can "use evolution to teach."

Chapters 2-4 expand on this second theme. Chapters 2 and 3 describe an education program for at-risk 9th and 10th grade students, the Regents Academy, designed entirely with evolutionary principles in mind. The program was rigorously assessed in a randomized control design and has demonstrated success at improving students' academic performance (Chapter 2) and social & behavioral development (Chapter 3). Chapter 4 examines current teaching strategies that underlie effective curriculum-instruction-assessment practices and proposes a framework for organizing successful, evidence-based strategies for neural-/cognitive-focused learning goals.

Chapter 5 explores the cognitive effects that "teaching evolution" has on the learner. This chapter examines the effects that a course on evolutionary theory has on university undergraduate students in understanding and applying evolution and how learning the evolutionary toolkit affects critical thinking skills and domain transfer of knowledge. The results demonstrate that a single course on evolutionary theory increases students' acceptance and understanding of evolution and science, and, in effect, increases critical thinking performance.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wilson, David S.
Commitee: Clark, Anne B., O'Brien, Thomas, Zhu, Wei-Xing
School: State University of New York at Binghamton
Department: Biological Sciences
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 75/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Science education
Keywords: Education, Evolution, Evolutionary studies, Learning, Regents academy
Publication Number: 3630896
ISBN: 978-1-321-09083-3
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