Latest research on Science and Religion-ASTE 2017 Presentation

Mark and I are about to present some of our research that we conducted on my students a few semesters ago at the ASTE 2017 conference in Des Moines, IA. The conference is 1/12/17 to 1/14/17. A working draft of the paper can be found at Academia and ResearchGate. I’m pretty sure both of those places are free. I made it possible for anyone to give us feedback on the paper at Academia. It is currently in review at one of the science education journals and I’m hopeful it will be accepted for publication. But, I wanted to address some things here first. My goal is to share our research with the general public, so pass on this post so we can get it out.

This research project, titled Recognizing Science from Non-Science: Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Perspectives on Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design (ID), was an exploratory study. We weren’t necessarily interested in students’ views on evolution, creationism, and ID (although now we do kinda wish we had used one of the current protocols available to measure this). Our interest was on what students would do if they were presented with a hypothetical scenario.

Let me provide some context. This study was done with preservice elementary teachers in my elementary science methods class. The class focused on teaching science. Several topics related to teaching science were addressed throughout the semester. Additionally, I included several lessons/activities that focused on the scientific endeavor.

Now for the scenario. It was entitled “Science in the Public Schools – School Board Scenario.” The activity was designed by the us and was intended to assess the students’ conceptions of science and then to challenge them to use their definition of science to justify the inclusion or exclusion of creationism and ID into the public schools’ science curriculum. The scenario proposed that the local school board is considering a motion to alter the science curriculum by introducing creationism and ID to the unit on biological evolution and the students will be offering their informed recommendations. Students were directed to first provide their own definition of science. Before soliciting their opinions regarding this issue, a general explanation of evolution, creationism, and ID was provided. They were then asked to write down their opinions of each (using their own definition of science to justify their position) and to draft a mock letter to the school board to provide their final recommendations.

The results were really interesting, at least to us. First, here is a graph showing their decision.

figure-1

Note each person was categorized for this graph based on their decision to teach or not teach creationism and/or ID. The five categories are: yes to creationism/yes to ID, yes to creationism/no t0 ID, no to creationism/yes to ID, no to creationism/no to ID, and only mention them (but not explicitly teach). The largest group was the No/No group (42.1%), followed by the Yes/Yes group (34.2%), then only creationism (11.8%), only ID (7.9%), and just mention (3.9%).

This isn’t the interesting part. The interesting part is their reasons for their decisions. Now, it should be noted that this paper is the first of two, probably three papers out of this data. I won’t get into everything here. I hope you will read the paper and let us know what you think. Start with the results and discussion if the lit review stuff doesn’t interest you. I like knowing what others have learned based on their research, but that may not interest you. I’ve gone on long enough, so I’ll sign off for now. I’ll dig into their reasons on the next post.

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