Workshop Structure

Browse topics: Setting the stage | Keynote speaker | Presentations/activities
Concluding discussion | Workshop evaluation | Expanding to a multi-day model

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* This is a continuation of Concluding discussion from page 1 *

Typical Questions

The problems facing pre-university teachers may well be different than those at the university level. The following chart outlines common problems as well as possible solutions and resources for discussion.

1. Antievolution pressure from parents, students, or outside groups If state/local education standards require the teaching of evolution. This is a good defense. See discussion in Lerner.
2. Questions about the legality of teaching creationism Teaching creationism is not legal. See eight significant court decisions, Cans and can'ts of teaching evolution
3. Specific topics and misconceptions (such as "gaps in the fossil record") Check the Misconceptions and associated resources for appropriate responses.
4. Religious objections to evolution Suggest exercises for "defusing the religion issue" as in these resources: Dealing with Antievolutionism, The Creation/Evolution Continuum, and Statements from Religious Organizations.
5. Appeals to "equal time" or "fairness" of teaching both creationism and evolution See Misconceptions
6. Colleagues who omit evolution Refer teacher to state/local education standards; refer to administrators.
7. Colleagues who teach creationism Refer teachers to school/district administrators NSTA and NABT statements on evolution.
8. Lack of time to teach evolution Encourage bringing evolution into curriculum as a theme in cell biology, genetics, taxonomy, and other topic areas where it is relevant.
9. Why is this problem primarily in the US? History and culture! See Antievolution and Creationism in the United States.

Hints for Facilitators:

  1. You won't have answers to all of the questions raised. If nobody in attendance suggests a solution, then:
    — Provide teachers with a list of resources, or
    — Let them know that you will try to find a good resource/solution and send it out to the group through their e-mails or by posting it on a particular website.
  2. Some discussions can bog down in the "misery loves company" syndrome. Should that seem to be occurring, see if you can find someone who has a possible solution/strategy that has been effective for the particular problem under discussion. It is even okay to say something like "This is getting pretty dreary—anyone have a success story they can relate?"
  3. Lack of time is a major issue for all teachers. If the discussion goes here, you will be in an area without immediate solutions. Allow for the necessary venting and then move on. Try to communicate that because evolution is essential, it must be included, even if something else has got to go.
  4. Let the teachers know that you too have been in similar uncomfortable situations.
  5. It will be helpful if you are familiar with the science standards for the state/district in which you are presenting. This will give you a sense of how much support that teachers can expect. These standards are usually available directly from the state's Department of Education web site.
  6. Consider providing e-mail addresses of the presenters for future questions, etc.


Before your participants leave the workshop, be sure to have them fill out a Workshop Evaluation so you can get feedback. The next time you organize a workshop, it will be even better!

In order to assist you with your planning of a workshop, we have provided a short Workshop Template to guide you through the process.

This structure assumes that you have only one day for the workshop. There are definite advantages to a multiple-day format. We have made suggestions for this format below.


Expanding to a multi-day model

There are several advantages of a multi-day format for an evolution workshop, the most obvious being that it affords its participants an in-depth experience and increased time for learning and sharing. In addition, with an increased the number of contact hours, it might be possible for teachers to receive professional development credits.

If more than one day is available for a workshop, there are several options to explore:

  • Expand the one-day outline, increasing depth or breadth of concepts covered.
  • Pick a theme (such as the fossil record, or Darwinian medicine, or ancestral relationships) and go into the subject in depth.
  • Develop a short course on a particular topic, such as critical thinking and the nature of science as applied to evolution.
  • Add a field trip component, e.g. visit a local fossil site.
Whether your workshop is a one-day or a multi-day format, we strongly encourage you to end each day with a discussion and the opportunity to share ideas.

One-day evolution education workshops may be quite similar whether they are held by an association, a museum, or an informal science center, but multi-day workshops may be quite different because of the different resources available to each. Therefore additional options might include:

for associations:

  • Encourage teachers to participate in your own association's field trips, poster sessions, or presentations, where appropriate.
  • Visit a local museum or informal science education center to showcase exhibits on evolution. They often have existing science education resources for teachers. It might even be valuable to form a partnership with a local institution in organizing the workshop.
for museums:
  • Arrange a behind-the-scenes tour of interest to teachers.
  • Focus on a particular area of curation and research and encourage teachers to develop student activities based on that subject area.
  • Have teachers compare and criticize existing activities on a particular subject (such as natural selection) to determine strengths and weaknesses. Have them suggest modifications to improve use in the classroom.


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