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LBC and BEACON partner with the Concord Consortium to study K-12 evolution education
students outside the Chicago Field Museum

LBC Biology Professor Dr. Peter White will serve as the Principal Investigator for a $1.2 million grant recently awarded by the National Science Foundation. Working with Co-PI Dr. Louise Mead, the Education Director at the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, White will study K-12 science education.

The primary goal of the four-year grant is to assess the effects of the National Research Council's Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These new standards emphasize the importance of three dimensions of science education—disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts—working together to provide a conceptual foundation so that students can explain phenomena and design solutions to problems.

As these new standards have been implemented, there has been little research done to assess levels of student understanding using these teaching methods. This grant's aim is to bridge that gap by researching how well technology-based materials foster interlinked, three-dimensional learning and increase sophistication of student understanding.

students looking at museum mapWhite and Mead will focus their research on high school biology classrooms, particularly the study of evolution. Because evolution requires students to study materials on multiple levels, from tiny molecules to vast ecosystems, the topic is ideal for studying the three-dimensional approach.

"Evolution is one of the most important topics that is researched and described within the biological sciences," said White. "And yet it remains a significant learning challenge for students because it incorporates processes from across biological scales. Our previous project has provided us with a solid foundation and we are excited to begin this new chapter in reforming evolution education."

Multiple classrooms across the state and the country will be assessed through the use of software, surveys, and in person interviews. The research team has partnered with the Concord Consortium, an educational research and development organization that provides teachers with technology-based materials aligned with the NGSS. This software includes built in assessments of student understanding that White and Mead will use in their findings to determine if students are meeting the performance expectations of the NGSS.