Date of Award

1998

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Ronald G. Good

Abstract

Louisiana public school biology teachers were surveyed to investigate their attitudes toward biological evolution. A mixed method investigation was employed using a questionnaire and open-ended interviews. Results obtained from 64 percent of the sample receiving the questionnaire indicate that although teachers endorse the study of evolution as important, instructional time allocated to evolution is disproportionate with its status as a unifying concept of science. Two variables, number of college courses specifically devoted to evolution and number of semester credit hours in biology, produced a significant correlation with emphasis placed on evolution. The data suggest that teachers' knowledge base emerged as the most significant factor in determining degree of classroom emphasis on evolution. The data suggest a need for substantive changes in the training of biology teachers. Thirty-five percent of teachers reported pursuing fewer than 20 semester credit hours in biology and 68 percent reported fewer than three college courses in which evolution was specifically discussed. Fifty percent reported a willingness to undergo additional training about evolution. In spite of the fact that evolution has been identified as a major conceptual theme across all of the sciences, there is strong evidence that Louisiana biology teachers de-emphasize evolutionary theory. Even when biology teachers allocate instructional time to evolutionary theory, many avoid discussion of human evolution. The research data show that only ten percent of teachers reported allocating more than sixty minutes of instructional time to human evolution. Louisiana biology teachers were found to hold extreme views on the subject of creationism as a component of the biology curriculum. Twenty-nine percent indicated that creationism should be taught in high school biology and 25--35 percent allocated instructional time to discussions of creationism. Contributing to the de-emphasis of evolutionary theory, as a unifying theme of biology, is the courtesy extended to classroom teachers to determine what topics are emphasized. The inclusion of evolution in curriculum documents is not sufficient to ensure that evolutionary theory is regarded as a unifying theme of biology. School administrators, science supervisors, and local school boards have a clear responsibility to articulate strong support for requiring classroom discussions of evolutionary theory.

ISBN

9780599213364

Pages

313

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