Teaching complete evolutionary stories increases learning

Jun 15, 2013

Many students have difficulty understanding and explaining how evolution operates. In search of better ways to teach the subject, researchers at Michigan State University developed complete evolutionary case studies spanning the gamut from the molecular changes underlying an evolving characteristic to their genetic consequences and effects in populations.

The researchers, Peter J. T. White, Merle K. Heidemann, and James J. Smith, then incorporated two of the scenarios into a cellular and molecular biology course taught to undergraduates at the university's Lyman Briggs College. When the students' understanding was tested, the results showed that students who had understood an integrated evolutionary scenario were better at explaining and describing how evolution works in general.

The results of the research, described in the July issue of BioScience, are significant because evolution is not usually taught in this comprehensive, soup-to-nuts way. Rather, instructors teach examples of parts of the evolutionary process, such as the ecological effects of natural selection or the rules of , separately. It appears that this fragmentation makes it harder for students to understand the process as a whole.

White and his colleagues note that "surprisingly few" comprehensive evolutionary study systems have been described, although the number is growing. The two employed in the BioScience study were about the evolution of and in domestic garden peas, and the evolution of light or dark coat color in beach mice living on light or dark sand. Students were tested on the beach mouse coat color scenario as well as on evolutionary principles in general. Understanding the beach mouse example was a better predictor of good responses to questions about evolution in general than was performance on the course as a whole. This suggests that improvements in evolutionary understanding came mostly from studying the integrated evolution scenarios.

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User comments : 17

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dogbert
1.7 / 5 (15) Jun 15, 2013
It should be easier to understand selection than evolution since selection can be demonstrated.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.5 / 5 (16) Jun 15, 2013
It should be easier to understand selection than evolution since selection can be demonstrated.
The evidence for evolution is conclusive, unlike your creationist fantasies for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

Stay tuned dog. The more we learn, the smaller god gets.
Sinister1811
2.8 / 5 (11) Jun 15, 2013
It should be easier to understand selection than evolution since selection can be demonstrated.


Semantics. Selection and evolution are one and the same.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (7) Jun 15, 2013
The learning of science can be very accelerated with presentation of things in their historical context. This is because the most easy to observe phenomena are getting understood first. With compare to it, the learning of modern physics is often too overly abstract for the sake of brevity: the students aren't learned, how to deduce things in rational way - they're forced to learn the final result only without understanding, how the scientists got into it. This schematic approach pervades whole scientific community.

For example Maxwell knew very well, how he derived his equations and why he described the magnetic field with vorticity of vacuum and why he described the magnetic force as an analogy Magnus force. The contemporary generation of physicists already forget it, so they cannot answer WHY questions, or even they refuse to answer it.
dogbert
1.3 / 5 (12) Jun 15, 2013
Selection and evolution are one on the same.

No.
ValeriaT
2.8 / 5 (11) Jun 15, 2013
Selection and evolution are one on the same.

No.
Why not? Could you provide some counterexample - or you're just trying to confirm your social independence with childish negativism? Without arguments it would mean, your personality is immature. Not to say, the categorical claims have no place in scientific discussion.
ryggesogn2
1.6 / 5 (14) Jun 15, 2013
When is evolution ever complete?
Who writes the headlines?
JohnGee
3 / 5 (14) Jun 15, 2013
When is evolution ever complete?
Never. This is not a requirement of validity.

Who writes the headlines?
What does this even mean? Uhh, I'm going to assume journalists? They tend to write headlines you know.
dogbert
1.4 / 5 (11) Jun 15, 2013
ValeriaT,
Why not? Could you provide some counter example


Red is not blue. Dark is not light. True is not false.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.2 / 5 (9) Jun 15, 2013
Red is not blue. Dark is not light. True is not false
-and the truth is, your god is not real.

Consider this; the only place you find a description of creationism, is in the holy books. There is nothing in nature that suggests that it was created by an intelligent being; and the notion would not even OCCUR to you unless it had been delivered to you in conjunction with equally absurd but compelling notions of immortality and wish-granting.

But your books also describe things which we now know did not happen, and people we now know did not exist. How could we accept the idea that your god created the universe if he didnt even know for instance that the flood never happened?

Some being may well have created the universe but it is NOT a god who describes himself as perfect and then writes books full of easily-disproved LIES.

We can similarly disregard the absurd notions that such a god would require our worship, or that he would torture us for eternity if he didnt get it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (8) Jun 15, 2013
-And who knows dog? Maybe evolution will ultimately be proven wrong. But this would not mean that creationism was right, nor that the god of your books was responsible for it; because that god has already been thoroughly, and conclusively, disproved. The people who invented him should have said a lot less. But over-elaboration is a wholly human fault isnt it?

embroider  [em-broi-der]
Synonyms:

aggrandize, amplify, blow-up, build up, color, distend, dramatize, elaborate, embellish, enhance, enlarge, expand, falsify, fudge, heighten, hyperbolize, lie, magnify, make federal case, make mountain out of molehill, overdo, overelaborate, overembellish, overemphasize, overestimate, overstate, pad, play up, puff, romanticize, spread on thick, stretch, stretch the truth, yeast

-Did you know that even the KJV admits that moses only parted a salt marsh. Where did they get 'red sea'? Cecil b demille??
geokstr
2.1 / 5 (7) Jun 17, 2013
...your god is not real.

It's not my god, I've been an atheist since I was a teen. I also am open to the fact that something may have created this universe, but that doesn't mean it's all powerful or deserves to be worshipped. I'm reminded of Clarke's Third Law:

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

But there's been plenty of psychological research that posits that most humans require a belief in something greater than themselves, something to aspire to, a set of rules to follow and more.

The political left has its own religion, atheists and secularists alike, it's leftism itself. It has its gods, right here on earth, the State, Gaia, Obama. It has a dogma, Marxism/Socialism, saints (Marx, Alinsky), holy books (Das Kapital, Rules for Radicals, Silent Spring, its devils (anyone who disagrees with them), and its heaven (The Worker's Paradise).

And it's far more ruthless than Islam, as the 100 million dead in the USSR, China et al, testify.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (6) Jun 17, 2013
We can distinguish between the deist god stuff, of which there is also at present no evidence for whatsoever, and the slew of theist gods as described in the holy books, which science has thoroughly disproved.

It is these phony bookgods which we need to be concerned with as their adherents will kill and die for them, and will restrict their women to reproducing until it kills them, in order to outgrow and overrun their neighbors.

This is all very unneighborly behavior and we have every right to identify it for what it is, and to oppose it by all means.
100 million dead in the USSR, China et al, testify.
These are all pseudo-religions, taking their structure directly from their first cousins.

Marx routinely referred to spirit, and the soul, and a chosen people - the worker - who was born to rule. Nazis routinelr referred to hitler as god-given. The SS swore an oath to him 'so help me god.'

They only rejected all other religions, as do they all.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (6) Jun 17, 2013
And it's far more ruthless than Islam
So you want to wait until we have a caliphate and another genocidal empire to deal with? It will be every bit as effective as the rest of them, and it will have all the cutting-edge NBC tech to use.

The holocaust will be overshadowed.
nowhere
5 / 5 (4) Jun 18, 2013
Selection and evolution are one on the same.

No.

This is correct. Evolution is a process, of which selection is a key part. It is good to note that selection is easily explained, and demonstrable as this goes a long way in helping explain the fundamental process of evolution to students.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Jun 18, 2013
Selection and evolution are one on the same.

I've been pondering this a bit and I think I can propose a counterargument:

Selection without mutation does not lead to evolution*

*. With the caveat that if the environment mutates and changes the selection criterium - before the organisms in a population are fully homogenized - it will lead to a change of the population makeup. But in that case you just get a shift of frequency of a certain trait within a population (until full homogenization is reached - after which no more change is possible).

You also do not get any adaptation, unless the changing environment just happens to play into the cards of a particular, alread existing trait (i.e. the environment adapts to the organism)

I would hasten to add that whether adpatation is part of evolution is debateable.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Jun 18, 2013
Selection and evolution are one on the same.

I've been pondering this a bit and I think I can propose a counterargument:

Selection without mutation does not lead to evolution*

*. With the caveat that if the environment mutates and changes the selection criterium - before the organisms in a population are fully homogenized - it will lead to a change of the population makeup. But in that case you just get a shift of frequency of a certain trait within a population (until full homogenization is reached - after which no more change is possible).

You also do not get any adaptation, unless the changing environment just happens to play into the cards of a particular, alread existing trait (i.e. the environment adapts to the organism)

I would hasten to add that whether adpatation is part of evolution is debateable.
-Or you could just look up the accepted definitions
http://regentspre...tion.htm