Evolution-centered teaching of biology

Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2012;13:363-80. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genom-090711-163749. Epub 2012 May 3.


University teaching remains an area of concern, and perhaps the most difficult discipline for both teaching and learning is evolution. The concepts that underpin evolution, although complex, have been shown to be fairly straightforward, yet students arrive at and leave university with serious misconceptions, misunderstandings related to language, and often a reluctance to learn the subject because of cultural or societal pressures. Because of the unifying power of the theory, however, it is necessary not only for biology students to have a thorough understanding of evolution, but also for them to learn it in their first year so that this knowledge can then be taken into further years of study. Rather than teaching evolution at the end of a degree program, embedding it as a semester-long first-year course will ensure that a far larger number of students are made aware of misconceptions that they have brought with them from high school. Teaching through traditional passive lectures makes learning difficult conceptual material more difficult, and needs to be replaced with more interactive lectures coupled with inquiry-based practicals and small group-learning sessions to increase student engagement and interest in the subject. A new approach in pedagogy, curriculum design, and academic staff professional development is essential, especially at this time, when enrollments across science courses in many countries around the world are in decline.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Biology / education
  • Genetics / education*
  • Humans
  • Teaching*
  • Universities