Below I will outline two common overused (and possibly inferior) methods for evolution evidence education and then propose an alternative.
Overused Method #1: The Historical Narrative Method
Students are introduced the Darwin and told of his 5 year expedition on the HMS Beagle.
In theory (o, pun!), this a wonderful way to involve students in an exciting story. It’s especially good at showing how evolution has been strengthened, refined and how it overcame the objections and misconceptions brought up by its opponents. The downside is many students have been primed to distrust, even demonize Darwin. What’s more, this style of teaching introduces students to only small sets of evidence which have been widely published on within the creationist camp providing students misconceptions that must be overcome. If students are only given the evidence Darwin had 150 years ago they miss out on an enormous wealth of more modern and clearer examples.
Overused Method #2: The Esoteric Fields of Biology Blitz Method
In an effort to show students how highly supported evolution is, many teachers and science standards resort to a using a litany of seemingly every field of biology that our students have no inkling about–paleontology, biogeography, genetics, embryological development, homology, biochemistry, disteleology, comparative anatomy, ad infinitum. Many times these words, and the required background knowledge to understand them, are roadblocks to get students to understand evolution. We would like to offer you an alternative below.
Proposed Superior Model: The S.P.R. Model (Similarities, Progressions, and Remnants)
This model of evolution evidence presentation, unlike other methods, captures the whole of the evidence in support of evolution and it does so in a way that doesn’t overwhelm students with new vocabulary or overly difficult concepts. It’s this simplicity that lends itself to allow the student to use the theory in one of the most powerful ways possible–test hypotheses and make predictions.
Each one of these categories listed above is elaborated on its own page.
EvolutionEvidence.org then further presents these 3 categories in a flow that allows students to learn Nature of Science material at the same time. This nature of science flow is outlined below.
- Claim: For the purposes of this website these are the hypotheses within evolution. Namely, the common ancestry and descent with modification of species.
- Prediction: If the claim is true, what evidence would you predict that you might find?
- Falsification: If the claim is false, what evidence would you predict that you might find? This is key. Students really, really need to know how to disprove evolution. Not only does this teach how science most often works–by disproving claims–but it also shows the strength of the evolutionary theory. People have been trying to disprove it for the last 150 years and it’s come through unscathed.
- Observation: This is a list of observations that could either support or falsify the claim.
- Corroboration: These are supporting evidences that corroborate the observations given. If this is difficult to understand, here are a few examples: Radiometric dating doesn’t directly support the theory of evolution but it does corroborate fossil evidence sequences in support of evolution. Anatomical homologies can be corroborated by genetic homologies found between two species. Vestigial structures can be corroborated by showing that the structures give no adaptive advantage or can actually be injurious (think of appendixes becoming infected and rupturing, as happened with the author of this).
- Inference: It’s important to allow students to follow the logic closely by pointing out when inferences are made. Like in all historical sciences (sciences that try to reconstruct the past) we are not able to directly test or observe what took place. It’s a scientists job, much like a juror in a court room, to come to the most reasonable, logical, evidence-supported, parsimonious inference conclusion.
You feedback to these ideas are very welcomed.