Date of this Version
THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER, VOLUME 67, NO. 1, JANUARY 2005
Biology teachers are fortunate when topics to be addressed possess inherent qualities that interest students. Classical genetics rarely fails to interest secondary school students because it is introduced at a time when they are self-absorbed with their nascent physical characteristics, emerging sexuality, and/or future athlet- ic potential. A topic like genetics is always an easier sell than would be taxonomy, for instance. How should one treat topics that traditionally are tougher to teach? A simple but effective method for self-assessing readiness to teach a particular topic is to be prepared to respond to the questions, "Why do I have to know this stuff?" and "What's in it for me?" Faced with these questions, real or implied, instructional decisions will be made to better address the needs of target learners. If the teacher's response does not have sufficient per- ceived relevance to the target learner, students find it quite easy to dismiss the "stuff' as unimportant - something to be memorized for a test and forgotten.
Preparation to teach evolution often carries with it an implicit additional question, "Why should I believe this stuff?" An inadequate response to this question can undermine a teacher's credibility and compromise his/her rapport with students and parents alike. How then should one reply? One place to start is to examine position statements on the teaching of evolution issued by professional organizations like the National Association of Biology Teachers (http://nabt.org/ sup/resources/position statements.asp) and National Science Teachers Association (http://www.nsta.org/ position). Understanding how professional associations use the terms "truth," "belief," "theory," etc. can make an important contribution to the clarity of a teacher's com- munication.