The featured Resource this month is “Understanding Evolution,” an education website focused on teaching the science and history of evolutionary biology. The website provides basic resources about evolution through grade-specific “teachers’ lounges”; class materials for levels K–12; and videos, scientists’ profiles, tutorials, examples, and even several interactive investigations. An independent research and evaluation group found that the resources on the site improve teachers’ and students’ understanding of evolution and also increase instructors’ confidence in teaching this often-challenging material.
The home page of “Understanding Evolution” offers a quick overview of the variety of information available. Clicking on “Evolution 101” leads to an “introduction to evolution” (also available in Spanish) as well as links to pages with concise text and graphics that explain the mechanisms of evolution, microevolution, speciation, macroevolution, and “the big issues” (the latter displays a page from Darwin’s notebook!). Or, click on “Teaching materials” to access a teaching materials database and a dialogue box. There you can search for materials among 457 resources suited to a specific age group by topic, key word(s), or title, or specific age group. Especially fascinating is a section on misconceptions about evolution – an extensive list of common beliefs about evolution and the scientific evidence that contradicts them – which helps teachers develop instructional strategies to correct these misconceptions. Beliefs include: “Evolution leads to immoral behavior”; “Gaps in the fossil record disprove evolution”; and “The theory of evolution is biased, but scientists won’t admit it.” Finally, you can click on “Resource library” to open a rich archive of materials – including dozens of sources and articles, exercises, and a webcast making the case for evolution. A single resource: “What is evolution, and how does it work?” taps into so many materials that you could build your course around them!
Subscribers to “Understanding Evolution” receive a free monthly newsletter with regular updates to the website, and subscribers to the free Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed receive updates delivered directly online to their preferred news aggregator. However, the deepest strengths of this website are its highly professional advisory board and reviewers, its wide range of materials for teachers or students K–12, and the solid and sustained emphasis on teachers and teaching. The site’s subtitle – “your one-stop source for information on evolution” – is more than a catchy phrase. Instead, it reflects a commitment to help teachers understand evolution and teach it in ways that are sensitive to opposing viewpoints but grounded in the newest scientific findings. For an even-handed and well-informed approach to teaching evolution, this site has few equals!
About the Creators:
Understanding Evolution started in 2004 as a collaboration between the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) and the National Center for Science Education, funded by NSF and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Since that time, the website has expanded to have a large staff of scientific professionals: scholars, instructors, authors, teachers, graduate students and post docs, as well as an advisory board and external reviewers from high schools, colleges, and institutes across the U.S.