This is a guest post by Elizabeth Barnes.
Over thirty years of education research has revealed how to effectively communicate evolution to religious individuals. If I could boil down that research into one sentence it would be this: Highlighting potential compatibility between religion and evolution and de-emphasizing conflict is the best way to increase acceptance of evolution. Here are concrete steps, backed by research literature, for how to have productive discussions about religion and evolution both in the classroom and with the public.
1) Don’t assume an individual’s religious beliefs are in conflict with evolution. Unless someone believes in the literal separate creation of species by a God/god(s), their religious beliefs do not have to be in conflict with evolution. Because science is bound to the natural world and cannot prove or disprove the existence of a God/god(s), there are plenty of ways individuals reconcile their religious beliefs with evolution. Further, when we insist that evolution and religion are fundamentally incompatible it only creates more rejection of evolution. In my most recent study, 35% of strongly religious individuals thought that in order to fully accept evolution, they would have to be an atheist. Unsurprisingly, these individuals were the ones that reported accepting evolution the least.
When we made the switch to online because of the pandemic, I imagine we all were asking ourselves: “How can students learn under these circumstances, and how can I possibly teach well?” Now that we’ve adjusted somewhat, I think now is the time for us to consider another consequential question: Which technological tools might be harming the educational environment of our virtual classroom?” In particular, is it a good idea to implement automated electronic surveillance of our students in this time of crisis?
While I’ve mentioned it briefly in the past, now I’m ready for the full announcement: my book is good to go and is available for pre-order!
One of my goals with this blog is to make evidence-based teaching practices more accessible to scientists who aren’t prepared for a deep dive into educational jargon and theory. I sometimes have been asked to recommend a book that does this, and I couldn’t find one. They say that you should write the book that you think the world needs, so that’s what I did. It’s an outgrowth of Small Pond Science, but it’s all new material.
Scientists regularly contend with irrational denialism of simple facts. In our classrooms, communities and the media, we hear patently absurd things like:
This is the logo of the Flat Earth Society.
- The world isn’t getting hotter, or even if it is, it’s not from carbon emissions.
- Humans didn’t evolve from nonhuman ancestors.
- Transgenic foods are unsafe.
- Vaccines cause autism.
Any scientist who operates on the basis of evidence will regard those ideas as total bunk*.
But, as I’ve mentioned before, people aren’t rational beings. Especially when their emotions are involved (and they usually are), they’re not prone to think an expert is correct if their intuition tells them otherwise.
And scientists are people.
So I am not entirely surprised, but I am disheartened, when scientists are guilty of their own flavor of denialism: Education Research Denialism. Continue reading
Attention education researchers: Here are some tips about interacting with science faculty. I’ve noticed that this genre uses a lot of lists. So, here’s a list:
I’ve always been puzzled, and frustrated, at the fact that most scientists either ignore or outright dismiss the latest in science education research.
I just came on a great post on Sci-Ed about the divide from last month. It starts:
Science education researchers and science teachers have much to offer each other. In an ideal world, knowledge would flow freely between researchers and educators. Unfortunately, research and practice tend to exist in parallel universes. As long as this divide persists, classrooms will rarely benefit from research findings, and research studies will rarely be rooted in the realities of the classroom. If we care about science education, we have to face the research-practice divide.
It’s worth a read. The irony is that scientists, more than anybody else you would think, should be the ones to use evidence-based methods in their practices. Why would you do something if you don’t know it to be effective? Research shows that professors often think that a number of methods they use are effective when, upon investigation, they clearly aren’t. (This is often true about lecturing in general.)
If you found out that your experimental methods were inaccurate or giving false results, you’d change your methods lickety split.
But if a scientist is told by a professional science education researcher that what they’re doing doesn’t work, what happens? All too often, nothing does.
I really have no idea how to open this up; there are inherited prejudices. The science education literature is rife with jargon and acronyms, and most scientists who give a look don’t see the methods as particularly robust. Communication is a start, but I don’t know what’s to be said.