Ohio High School Biology Teachers' Views of State Standard for Evolution: Impacts on Practice

By Borgerding, Lisa A. | Science Educator, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview
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Ohio High School Biology Teachers' Views of State Standard for Evolution: Impacts on Practice


Borgerding, Lisa A., Science Educator


Abstract

High school biology teachers face many challenges as they teach evolution. State standards for evolution may provide support for sound evolution instruction. This study attempts to build upon previous work by investigating teachers' views of evolution standards and their evolution practices in a state where evolution standards have been much-contested. This study employed a sequential explanatory mixed methods approach investigating the views of 129 Ohio high school biology teachers. Participants completed two surveys targeting their views of evolution standards and evolution teaching practices. Using a checklist, participants also indicated the evolution topics they addressed. All participants were invited to provide qualitative responses to the survey, and 16% of the respondents answered four open-ended questions via a follow-up email. Overall, teachers regarded evolution standards positively and reported spending an average of 11.6 hours teaching evolution. With respect to specific evolution teaching practices, teachers most often indicated that they addressed the mechanism of natural selection, anatomical evidence for evolution, adaptation, fossil record, connections between genetics and evolution, and information about Charles Darwin. Furthermore, statistical comparisons revealed that teachers who held more positive views of the evolution standards covered more standards-based and non-standards based evolutionary topics than their less positive colleagues.

Keywords: evolution teaching, standards, biology teaching

Introduction

In the United States, the National Science Education Standards (NSES) (National Research Council, 1996) and several state standards documents (Gross, 2005; Lerner, 1998) emphasize the importance of teaching biological evolution to secondary science students. However, evolution teaching is difficult for many reasons. Previous literature has addressed the potential for state science standards that address evolution to ameliorate this situation, and teachers' standards use has been shown to be related, to some extent, to their evolution teaching practices. This study targets teachers' views of standards as they pertain to their evolution teaching practices and extends the author's previous work by examining these entities with an Ohio sample of teachers, Ohio science standards, revised instruments, and the integration of quantitative and qualitative data. Specifically, this investigation addresses how high school biology teachers report their regard for the evolution standards, their evolution teaching practices, and how views of evolution standards and teaching practices are related.

Literature Review

Almost all U.S. states have developed state standards for high school biology curricula, and most of these standards documents address the theory of evolution to some degree (Gross, 2005). However, evolution standards are the subject of much debate, and several states have been embroiled in wellpublicized battles about the content of these standards. Some scholars have questioned the utility of state standards for evolution (Moore, 2001), while others see promise for evolution standards improving evolution practice (Skoog & Bilica, 2002). In fact, teachers' attitudes toward the evolution standards were found to be related to their evolution teaching practices in an Indiana sample of biology teachers (Donnelly & Boone, 2007). Strong evolution standards may be more important for the younger generation of teachers who have been socialized within a standards-based culture (Berkman & Plutzer, 2011). Yet, ambiguous or inconsistent treatment of evolution in some state standards documents may leave the decision to teach or avoid evolution up to individual teachers (Goldsten & Kyzer, 2009). Furthermore, state standards for evolution may not necessarily translate into teaching practices because of teachers' rejection of the theory itself, their desire to minimize student resistance, and the frequent absence of evolution on state examinations (Bandoli, 2008).

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