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Supporting Effective Teaching and Learning

Kirchoff, Bruce K. [1].

Using The Origin of Species to Teach Evolution.

Darwin's Origin of Species is the most influential book in all of biology, yet few students graduate with any direct experience with its contents. In this session we will explore the use of the First Edition of the Origin as one of the major texts for an undergraduate class in evolution. In addition to laying out a convincing argument for evolution by natural selection, Darwin introduces many subjects that are often attributed to later authors: sexual selection, kin selection, niche theory, biogeography, hybridization, introgression, allopatric and sympatric speciation, and the founder effect, among others. The well-known problems with his theory stemming from an inadequate mechanism of heredity do not appear until later additions. In the First Edition Darwin admits that he lacks an adequate mechanism to explain heredity. Although troubled by this lack, he is convinced of the correctness of his theory by the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence. He knows the types of phenomena that must be accounted for by a mechanism of heredity, even if he can offer none himself. Work with the Origin allows the instructor to introduce many topics in evolutionary theory, and gives him or her the opportunity to work with students on reading comprehension, and oral communication skills. In the class that I taught during spring 2005, the students summarized and presented Darwin's arguments, chapter by chapter, for the first half of the semester. Work with the Origin culminated in the take-home midterm, which asked the students to paraphrase, interpret and evaluate Darwin's ideas. In the second half of the course we used two lower level graduate texts: Fossils and Evolution by T. S. Kemp, and Cladistics by P. Skelton and A. Smith. Work with these texts was facilitated by having read Darwin.

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Related Links:
Origin of Species, First Edition
Zip file with course documents

1 - University of North Carolina Greensboro, Department of Biology, Po Box 26170, Greensboro, North Carolina, 27402-6170, USA

Origin of Species

Presentation Type: Education Forum Session:Informational Session
Session: F 1a-1
Location: 408/Hilton
Date: Saturday, August 13th, 2005
Time: 8:15 AM
Abstract ID:15

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