Teaching evolution, especially in Texas, is a mixed bag of light bulbs going off in students’ heads, quizzical expressions, and students up and leaving your classroom. There is a lot of student and teacher misconception, a lot of terrible shortcuts made in teaching evolution, and a lot of student roadblocks in understanding.
The first step in teaching any subject is of course to be the expert (or at least know more than your students do). The second step is to be able to present that information in a digestible way. Most often these days this is done with a powerpoint presentation and practical exercises. The third step is to deliver the aforementioned lesson and pray it gets through. Then the terrifying part – the questions. Some will be easy to answer, they’re just a misunderstanding on the student’s part. Some will be confusing. And worst will be the ones that make you want to laugh or palm your head and give up on the whole task. But persevere. Likelihood is that if they don’t learn it correctly from you they will never learn it, as your class maybe the only science course they will ever take. And in the U.S. with only 28 percent of American adults currently qualifying as scientifically literate (Miller 2007) our job is too important to mess up.
So here are some great resources that make evolution easy for the teacher, and therefore the student:
- Understanding Evolution For Teachers provided by the University of California (Berkeley) Museum of Paleontology.
- Evolution for Teachers provided by PBS.
- Homer Evolution provided by the Simpsons.
Good luck to us all in the coming semester. At least we won’t be as bad as Mr. Garrison.
Miller JD. 2007. “The Public Understanding of Science in Europe and the United States.” Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. San Francisco, California. February 16.