In DepthEducation

Why many U.S. biology teachers are ‘wishy-washy’

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Science  06 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6226, pp. 1054
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6226.1054

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In 2007, two political scientists surveyed a national sample of high school biology on their teaching of evolution. They found that 13% were openly sympathetic to creationism, while 28% gave their students a solid grounding in evolution science. The rest, which the researchers labeled "the cautious 60%," spent as little time as possible teaching this most fundamental concept in biology. Now, in a new study of students preparing to become science teachers, the same pair of researchers focuses on where this "wishy-washiness" on teaching evolution comes from. Drawing from focus groups held with 35 teacher-trainees at four universities in the Pennsylvania, they find that future science teachers often lack the knowledge, conviction, and role models needed to teach evolution with confidence. One problem, the researchers say: breaking the "cycle of ignorance," in which teaching students lack good role models for teaching evolution because they weren't taught the subject well in high school or college.