Teaching evolution as an interdisciplinary science : concepts, theory, and network infrastructure for educational design research

Evolution is an interdisciplinary science. Evolutionary theory is routinely employed across the overlapping domains of the natural, social, and computational sciences, as a high level generalization of processes of change within complex adaptive systems. Despite this interdisciplinary character of evolutionary science, evolution education remains almost exclusively the purview of the biology classroom within general education curricula around the world. This thesis engages conceptual clarification and educational design research to map and explore the educational potential of teaching evolution as the interdisciplinary science that it is. Beginning with a foray into student conceptions of the capacities for and causes of cooperation in chimpanzees and human children, it is argued that research in comparative psychology provides a fertile entry point for engaging the interdisciplinarity of evolutionary sciences. A considered analysis of persistent challenges within traditional approaches to biological evolution education then outlines core conceptual issues and pedagogical strategies for an interdisciplinary approach. This conceptual work supports the exploratory development of two novel directions in evolution education. First, in human evolution, a new toolkit is presented to engage students in causal mapping of the many processes and information streams that have shaped human origins. Second, an interdisciplinary approach to community-based school improvement has been developed that empowers youth to become drivers of valued change within their school community, while challenging them to reflect on the evolutionary theoretical context for such cultural change. Future directions in research are discussed within the context of the OpenEvo learning hub, an online educational innovation and design research lab to drive continued development in this space.



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