Teaching Evolution through Human Examples (TEtHE), a three-year exploratory research and development project, is assessing how the use of resource activities and teaching strategies focused on human evolution will affect the understanding, teaching and learning of evolution by high school AP biology teachers and students. The guiding questions of the proposed project are 1) In what ways does using examples of human evolution to teach basic evolutionary concepts affect understanding of evolution among high school students? 2) In what ways do teaching strategies that focus on positive dialogue about human evolution help teachers overcome cultural challenges to teaching evolution concepts? 3) In what ways does using examples of human evolution to teach basic evolutionary concepts in conjunction with teaching strategies that focus on positive dialogue about human evolution affect understanding of evolution among high school students? TEtHE project will contribute to the field of evolution education, which is lacking on whether using teaching materials with a human emphasis along with strategies that increase teacher comfort and confidence in teaching evolution lead to greater understanding of evolution.
Project evaluation will focus on refining teaching materials and strategies and testing their efficacy in pilot studies in cooperation with the College Board and its professional development programs for the newly restructured AP course in biology. Studies include: independent assessment of teacher satisfaction with the resource activities as well as confidence and ease in use of the materials, independent review of the materials by the Advisory boards, and survey of all participating teachers to identify ways the materials were used. When addressing each question, the team will investigate validity, feasibility, usefulness, appropriateness, and student results. Methods for collection include: observation, open-response surveys, open-ended interviews, content assessments, and attitudinal surveys. The primary investigator is the Smithsonian Institute; the National Academies Teacher Advisory Board, the Understanding Evolution Teacher Advisor Board, and AP biology teachers from Washington DC serve as co-developers. The project has an external evaluator as well as an advisory board.
The TEtHE project will develop resource activities and teaching strategies with and for high school biology teachers. Professional development will also provide teachers with guidance on how to incorporate the activities and strategies into the classroom. The TEtHE project, over the course of three years, will involve over 100 AP biology teachers which will translate to reaching over 2000 AP biology students. The resources will be widely disseminated online at the end of the project, at national conferences, in national publications, and long range plans include incorporation into the national AP biology curriculum. This project could serve as a model for expanding effective methods for teaching evolution to Biology 1 classes, and contribute to an understanding of how to approach the teaching of scientific topics that intersect religious, ethical, and other areas of societal concern.