Teaching Tools

Teaching tools are used across diverse lessons to develop the skills that evolutionary anthropologists and sustainability scientists use in exploring the causes and consequenes of human behavior, and the complex relationships in social-ecological systems.

Using these tools across content promotes transfer of learning across themes in evolution, behavior, and sustainability science.

Tinbergen's questions

When eliciting, noticing, and reflecting on particular human behaviors with students, the natural question is - What caused this behavior?

Students, as all humans, have some answers to these questions, and teachers can help students sort their answers into different types of causes, making them aware that some causes lie in the immediate environment, some have to do with individual experiences in the recent and not-so-recent past, but, perhaps surprisingly, some causes also originate much further back in time.

Tinbergen's questions help students and teachers in this process of reflecting on and sorting the complex causality of (human) behavior and other phenomena in biology and society.

Content across content anchors helps students and teachers to further explore these different causes of our behaviors, while learning about the methods of science in human evolution, behavioral ecology and sustainability.

More on Tinbergen's Questions as Teaching Tool

More information about the design principle: Complex Causality

Social interactions and payoff matrix

Many situations in our everyday experience are social interactions - outcomes for us are not just influenced by how we behave individually, but also how others around us behave. This is because we humans live in social groups and in a world that is changed and created by other humans.

Evolutionary biologists, economists and sustainability scientists sometimes represent the costs and benefits that people (or other animals) get from a behavior through a so-called payoff matrix.

Payoff matrices help us reflect on the possible motivations for and consequences of behaviors in particular situations, and identify situations of social interactions and social dilemmas.

More on the Payoff Matrix Teaching Tool

Causal mapping

Understanding how behaviors, their causes, and their outcomes interact requires other tools, because in the biological and social world, we are dealing with complex causality.

Causal maps are one way to visualize this complex causality. With the help of scaffolded materials, students build causal maps between conditions, behaviors, and other factors, and recognize the role of feedback loops.


More on Causal Mapping Teaching Tools

More information about the design principle: Complex Causality

Causal map example: Why do we humans walk on two legs?

(see more on upright walking, an example of behavior-led genetic evolution)

Tools for population thinking

Population thinking is one of the key skills in evolution education. Educators know that students often have trouble seeing variation within and across populations, and seeing how this variation, including variations in outcomes, leads to changes of populations over time.

More on tools for Population thinking

Analogies and analogy mapping

If the aim of education is for students to transfer their learning to novel contexts, we need to practice this transfer continuously by relating diverse content examples to overarching principles and processes.

Analogies as well as analogy mapping tasks and tables are tools to engage in transferable learning. Students are encouraged to inquire beyond surface features to uncover general principles, processes, conditions, and behaviors in the world.

More on tools for Analogy Mapping

More information about the design principle: Teach for Transfer