What can Kansas learn from Ohio?
Bryan Leonard, a PhD candidate and biology teacher at Hilliard Davidson High School outside of Columbus, OH, gave one of the most compelling presentations of the entire Kansas Board of Education hearings on teaching evolution.
Leonard was the primary author of Ohio state’s Critical Analysis of Evolution lesson plan, certain to be a model for Kansas or any other state that adopts a science standard allowing for the inclusion of scientific criticism of Darwinian evolution.
Currently a doctoral candidate for a degree in science education, his approach is to look at how students learn, react and behave when presented with both sides of the evidence for and against evolution.
One of the most refreshing aspects of Leonard’s presentation was the focus on students. After all, it is what students learn, what’s good for them and their education, that is the reason that this debate is even taking place. This is something that is often forgotten, or receives just lip service, in the overall debate over evolution. Students are the ultimate recipients of all this information. Leonard’s presentation helped to refocus everything back on what goes on in the classroom. For him, students are the focus, and it would be good if everyone on both sides of the issue remembered that.
Lenoard is obviously a teacher and comfortable speaking in front of an audience. “As a teacher I need to walk around.” So he did, and was the only witness who ever got out from behind the podium over the entire three days.
“I teach the Critical Analysis of Evolution,” Leonard told the board. “I was the original drafter. Leonard explained the process the lesson went through and that it was extensively peer-reviewed, I teach the scientific interperetation both supporting and challenging molecular evolution. I’ve been doing that for 5-6 six years”
Leonard explained that his lesson is a product of a lot of steps, there are a lot of finger prints on this lesson plan. He presented it in front of Ohio’s 10th grade writing committee — including research scientists, high school biology teachers and veterinarians — then it was “tweaked and molded it into the best possible plan.” The lesson also had input from the advisory team, Ohio department of education officials and it was field tested. The field testing consisted of it being read by other biology teachers, university professors and finally scientists. Some teachers actually used it in the classroom as a field test and delivered feedback. According to Leonard the entire writing committee worked very hard to design the lesson to best serve Ohio’s students. The result is a very good product that can benefit students and teachers, and increase student knowledge on evolution,
One thing that Leonard did in researching and developing the lesson plan was to find out what students are most interested in and teach toward their interest.
So, he queried students:
Which of the following would be more interest for you to learn?
Scientific information supporting evolution only
Scientific information which supports and challenges evolution
Out of 350 students, 312 (89%) wanted to learn both the evidence which supports evolution as well as that which challenges it. This is basic, clear data that shows a majority of students want both sides from a scientific perspective.
Leonard said it appears that the Kansas minority report is definitely heading in the right direction. Many of the same things in the Kansas minority report, Ohio already has embedded in its lesson plan.
“We used this in Ohio and it works. Parents love it. Kids love it. I have not had any negative reports.”