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  The Journal of Effective Teaching
an online journal devoted to teaching excellence

 


Journal of Effective Teaching, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2009  

Kelley, P. H. (2009). A College Honors Seminar on Evolution and Intelligent Design: Successes and Challenges. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 9(2), 29-37.  [Full Text]


Abstract 

College honors courses provide an opportunity to tackle controversial topics in an atmosphere that encourages active learning, critical thinking, and open discussion. This venue is particularly appropriate for examining the debate about teaching intelligent design (ID) in public school science classes. A one-credit honors enrichment seminar taught at the University of North Carolina Wilmington provides a model, with associated successes and challenges, for addressing the controversy. This interdisciplinary course consisted primarily of discussions based on a set of weekly readings that presented contrasting viewpoints on evolution and naturalism, ID, theology, and educational issues. In preparation for each class, students constructed charts contrasting the views of each writer on key points presented in the readings and summarizing their own responses. Discussion focused on a set of questions arising from the readings and designed to provoke debate. The Kitzmiller v. Dover decision served as a final case study; each student prepared a final paper defending or criticizing Judge Jonesí decision in the Dover court case. Prior to the course, some students had not heard of ID and many had limited knowledge of evolution. The course improved student knowledge of evolution, ID, and the issues involved in the controversy, preparing them to make informed political decisions. Challenges included the uneven level of knowledge about evolution among students in this non-science course and the time constraints of a 1-credit course. In addition, because I had decided to serve as a facilitator and not press my opinions, misconceptions were more difficult to correct, although the variety of disciplines represented by the students allowed them to correct one another.

 

Keywords: Intelligent Design, evolution, honors course, pedagogy.

 

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