A Curriculum Study of Evolution in Secondary Biology Textbooks

Open Access
Kerrigan, Olivia Scout
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • William Carlsen, Thesis Supervisor
  • Sarah Mary Assmann, Honors Advisor
  • biology
  • education
  • secondary
  • textbook
  • curriculum
  • evolution
Evolution is understood as the theory that unifies all of life science. Yet in the United States, students and adults lack a coherent understanding of evolutionary theory. Secondary science textbooks are at the root of this problem. High school biology textbooks present evolution in a disjointed, obscure way that reinforces student misconceptions. An analysis of four biology textbooks published in the last ten years revealed that ambiguous wording, inattention to prior student knowledge, and disjointed presentation combine to create an ineffective tool for teaching evolution. Effective biology education depends upon teaching evolution as a unifying theme of biology and weaving evolutionary theory through all chapters and topics in the textbook. A paradigm shift in biology texts towards teaching biology in the light of evolution will allow for more potent science education, and shape scientifically literate students in generations to come.