Effect of Instructor Bias on High School Biology Students' Acceptance of Evolutionary Theory
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As part of her student teaching experience, the author designed a research project comparing how the pro-evolution bias of one teacher and the anti-evolution bias of her cooperating teacher impacted student acceptance of evolutionary theory. The author administered a pre- and post-test, observed both teachers, and conducted exit interviews with students from both classes. The results indicated that the personal beliefs of teachers do come across in their teaching and they do influence student opinion. The data collected from the survey showed that formal education on the subject of evolution served to increase students' acceptance of it as a valid, scientific theory. However, overall acceptance increased more dramatically when instruction was given by a teacher who herself accepted evolution, while acceptance increase was marginal when instruction was given by a teacher less accepting of evolution. In interviews with students it became clear that they had not noticed bias in either teacher's method of instruction, although to the author the anti-evolution teacher’s lectures had been anything but neutral. Additionally, all students believed their views had not changed or that they had become more accepting of evolution; rarely were they self-aware enough to be correct. No student told me that their acceptance had decreased. This surprised the author who anticipated that some students would notice what she perceived to be the evident prejudice of the anti-evolution teacher. She expected students to be more aware of how their education was affecting their beliefs. For the most part, however, the students seemed to be convinced that they were strongly set in their beliefs and that a few days or weeks of instruction would have no impact. From an educational perspective, this indicates the potential for teachers to influence students' viewpoints greatly.