Evolving Ideas: Assessment in an Evolution Courseby: Cynthia Passmore and Jim Stewart

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As science instruction moves from lectures that emphasize lists of facts to more student-centered approaches that emphasize knowledge generation and justification, it is clear that assessments must also change. The assessment instruments developed for a nine-week high school course on evolution engaged students in activities that mirrored the practices of evolutionary biology. Students used the model to explain phenomena through a set of writing assignments documenting their evolving ideas and allowing them to see how their ideas changed. By the end of the nine-week course, students made important gains in their understandings of variation, selection, and heritability.

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Reviews (3)
  • on Thu Apr 26, 2012 12:39 PM

Students were asked to write about their initial understanding about the evolutionary progress and Galapagos tortoises , refine their understanding and provide feedback through out the course and compare their understanding at end of course with their original ideas. The course was designed to engage students in activities mirroring the practices of evolutionary biology to use natural selection as a model to explain phenomena.

Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton

  • on Tue May 03, 2011 6:12 PM

This chapter is based on a case study in evolution and creates an assessment based on student's writing their preliminary ideas, and then critiquing their own ideas at the end of the learning objectives. This is an effective demonstration of The National Science Education Standards call for “authentic assessment exercises requir[ing] students to apply scientific knowledge and reasoning to situations…that approximate how scientists do their work” (NRC 1996, p. 78). In my opinion, this strategy will also help students develop metacognitive strategies of self-reflection because they are looking at how their ideas change with knew knowledge.

Angelika Fairweather  (Bradenton, FL)
Angelika Fairweather (Bradenton, FL)

  • on Thu Apr 14, 2011 9:52 PM

The article describes a process a teacher used with her biology students with regard to an evolution unit. She gave the students a question at the beginning of the course and used their responses to design her instruction. At the end of the instruction, she gave the students back their first assessments and had the students revise those initial assessments to reflect their new knowledge.

Susan German  (Hallsville, MO)
Susan German (Hallsville, MO)

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