NCTE Session Summaries
Friday, October 6

Morning keynote address

"Defining Science and Defining Evolution," Richard Bambach

Richard Bambach opened his keynote address by defining and characterizing the dynamic nature of science and the history of scientific thought. He went on to discuss some of the philosophical issues about the overall complexity of science in general, and identified several specific barriers to the understanding of science by the general public. Bambach concluded by stating that "Scientists must be proactive, not reactive, about informing society at large."

Working group session I—recipients of information

K–12 Students
   Facilitators: Al Janulaw and Irene Eckstrand

K-12 teachers are key to meeting the goal of improving student learning, and scientific and education professional socieites should work together toward common goals. The existing science standards documents (Benchmarks and NRC National Science Education Standards) are not well known by scientists, but provide an excellent framework for improving evolution education. In addition, several groups (Project 2061, for example) are focusing on evaluating and improving the quality of materials. Professional science societies can increase their members' awareness of the resources that already exist and provide training to scientists who wish to work at their local levels. Society members may become involved with students, such as in collaborative research projects or providing science fair awards for evolution projects. While much work needs to be done at the secondary level, elementary and junior high school students need to hear much more about evolution in an engaging, real world manner. Societies should support the development and promotion of materials that would accomplish these goals.

K–12 Teachers
   Facilitators: Mike Howell, John Jungck and Lisa White

Discussions focused on (1) the existing knowledge base of K-12 teachers, (2) the ways in which they attain this knowledge, and (3) the ways in which societies might improve upon the way that teachers receive and understand information. How teachers receive information about evolution is filtered through their own experiences as students, as teachers, and as individuals. There are different attitudes toward the teaching of evolution: those teachers who are teaching evolution but want more information, those teachers who would teach evolution if they knew more and had better resources, those teachers who feel alone and under siege in districts where the teaching of evolution is not supported, and those teachers who are frightened of teaching evolution. Bridging gaps that may exist between various educational entities and professional organizations/associations is key in supporting these teachers. Professional development initiatives should provide better incentives for teachers (both pre-service and in-service) to engage in new training and curricular development activities that have the full support of administrators. Evolution needs to be viewed as the common unifying thread in science and as relevant to our daily lives.

   Facilitators: Buzz Hoagland and Gordon Uno

The majority of U.S. colleges and universities require all students to complete one or two science courses to fulfill the general education component of their education. Unfortunately, many of these courses either do not include evolution or do not emphasize evolution as the unifying theme. Evolution is good science. And, because of its inherent richness, a curriculum designed with evolution as its unifying theme is a mile wide and a mile deep. The very nature of evolution invites students to participate in the broader aspects of scientific inquiry. They learn to formulate questions, generate hypotheses, test hypotheses, . . .; in short, undergraduates learn how to participate fully in the process of science through the study of evolution. We can expect undergraduates to more fully understand evolution only after it becomes the unifying theme for biology, geology, and physical science general education courses. Additionally, there is a rich research literature addressing teaching and learning issues with which we as science educators must become better acquainted. Finally, we must open the lines of communication within our individual departments and among departments and encourage faculty to take advantage of those pedagogical techniques that have been demonstrated to improve student learning.

General Public
   Facilitators: Lee Allison and Richard Bambach

The goals of NCTE should be to increase public understanding and acceptance of science and to develop support for effective education in all aspects of science, including evolution. There is no single audience defined by the term "general public," rather there are several audiences to be identified. Within the United States, there is a great middle that is very interested in science. It is important to reach this middle sector and show them why and how evolution is important to their lives. Societies should work together to: (1) ensure sufficient scientific voices in continual dialogue, (2) harness the web, (3) support cross fertilization among societies , and (4) nurture religious understanding for science, as religious groups are major stakeholders in support of teaching evolution. We need to do a better job of "marketing" science.

Policy Makers
   Facilitators: Kip Bollinger

The term policy makers was replaced with decision-makers as being a more accurate descriptor of the audience under discussion. The message to decision-makers should be: consistent, concise, and positive. The message should turn on the central, positive principle: Evolution is good science. Decision-makers need to know about evolution and the nature of science, about the relevance of evolution to society, and about teaching evolution. Advocacy for evolution should occur at multiple levels: national, state, and local. Individual citizen-scientists are best positioned to pursue advocacy at the local level, while organizations and coalitions of organizations are best positioned to influence decision-makers at the state and national levels.

Evening keynote address

"A Case Study of What Happened in Kansas," Steve Case and Brad Williamson

Steve Case and Brad Williamson described their experiences on the personal, school, community, and state political levels with the debate over teaching creationism in the Kansas public schools. They gave an overview of the Kansas situation and their roles within it. They highlighted the tremendous amount of public misunderstanding about the subject which fuels this debate. Case and Williamson also discussed the serious negative consequences that such powerful and divisive conflicts create for the individuals and communities affected.

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