Long-term Sabbatical

Targeted Sabbaticals for MSI faculty:Biology of women-an evolutionary perspective

PI(s): Aditi Pai (Spelman College)
Start Date: 1-Aug-2013
End Date: 31-Jan-2014
Keywords: education, behavior, human evolution

Evolution education in the United States remains a challenge due to difficulties stemming from students’ educational, religious, social, and cultural backgrounds (Berkman and Plutzer 2010). Because of the widespread misunderstanding of evolutionary theory and consequently misuse, to justify racism (LePage 2008), certain minority groups may be especially mistrustful of evolutionary biology. Thus a lack of interest and acceptance from minorities remains a major challenge to evolution education, and a serious effort to address this major hurdle in evolution education needs to be made. The case study method involves teaching with ‘stories’ that are often centered round a dilemma to solve, a debate to resolve or a puzzle to answer. This method involves group work, discussion, and active involvement by students (Herreid 2007). Not only is it more effective in engaging students in general, but is more appealing to minorities and women (Lundeberg and Yadav 2006a, b). This project will exploit the effectiveness of the case method in attracting minority and women student populations and create a case collection on an evolutionary perspective on biology of women. In total, eight case studies on the evolutionary biology of women, spanning topics such as evolution of sex, sexuality, mate choice, promiscuity, menstruation, pregnancy, parenting, and aging will be created and made available online. The broad appeal of these topics will ensure the adaptation of these cases in majors as well as non-majors classes at Spelman, a historically Black college for women, thereby improving knowledge and acceptance of evolution among this group.