Project (2018)

Evolution, History, Pedagogy

In secondary schools, historical perspectives are rarely integrated into science pedagogy. For example, the structure and function of DNA, Mendelian genetics, and evolution, are usually taught in that order (if, indeed, evolution is taught at all), and not necessarily as part of an integrated sequence that makes sense of how these three levels of analysis of organisms and their individual and phylogenetic histories fit together. Moreover, students do not learn how scientists actually figured out these highly complex problems; rather, they are presented as though sprung fully-formed from the forehead of Minerva (or, rather, from the foreheads of the cartoonish Darwin, Mendel, and Watson and Crick featured in inset boxes in textbooks, albeit in much the same Jovian fashion).

While at the MPIWG, Abigail Lustig drafted official syllabuses for the European Schools courses in Integrated Science (school years 6–8) and biology (years 9–10), integrating historical approaches into an inquiry-based pedagogy, so that students can, in part, re-enact original processes of discovery and understanding. For example, in biology, students will use both historical sources and laboratory inquiry to understand natural selection by way of variation and the struggle for existence; elementary genetics by way of Mendel’s original breeding experiments and data, including the technical experience of selective plant breeding, and DNA structure through modelling and Rosalind Franklin’s X-ray crystallography data. The experience of science as a social activity rooted in historical norms, and continuous epistemological discussion about evidence and theories in science, is integral to the sequences.

The finalized syllabuses will be submitted to approval by the Joint Teaching Committee and the Board of Governors of the European Schools in February, 2019, and, on approval, will come into force in September, 2019.