Cooperation as a causal factor in human evolution: a scientific clarification and analysis of German high school biology textbooks
Hanisch, S., & Eirdosh, D. (2022). Cooperation as a causal factor in human evolution: a scientific clarification and analysis of German high school biology textbooks textbooks. Journal of Biological Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/00219266.2021.2020875
Many evolutionary anthropologists view cooperation as core to the evolutionary success of our species. Concurrently, many sustainability scientists view cooperation as core to the future sustainable development of our species. When it comes to biology education, however, it is unclear how or if students are being engaged in these scientific perspectives. This article offers an overview of scientific perspectives regarding cooperation as a central causal factor in shaping human behaviour, cognition, and culture during human evolution. Against this background, we analysed 23 German high school biology textbooks with the aim to understand if and how cooperation is presented as a causal factor in human evolution and behaviour. Overall, the role of cooperation, especially the emotional and motivational aspects of cooperative behaviour, and the role of a cooperative social and cultural environment in shaping human traits, appears to be significantly deemphasized compared to the role of individual brain size and ‘intelligence’ in the evolution of our species. Furthermore, in sections on behavioural ecology, humans are hardly ever presented as an example of a highly cooperative species. Overall, textbooks show a diversity of strengths and weaknesses, from which we identify several learning opportunities in the appropriate integration of cooperation science within biology education.
Are humans a cooperative species? Challenges and opportunities for teaching the evolution of human prosociality
Hanisch, S. & Eirdosh, D. (2021). Are humans a cooperative species? Challenges and opportunities for teaching the evolution of human prosociality. The American Biology Teacher, 83 (6). https://doi.org/10.1525/abt.2021.83.6.356
Evolutionary anthropologists commonly describe humans as a highly cooperative species, based on our evolved socio-cognitive capacities. However, students and the general public may not necessarily share this view about our species. At the same time, fostering our ability to cooperate is considered a key foundation for achieving sustainable development, and students’ understanding of the conditions that enable or hinder cooperation is therefore an important learning goal in sustainability education. In this article, we describe a small classroom activity that explored students’ and preservice biology teachers’ preconceptions about the human capacity to cooperate around shared resources in comparison to the capacity of our closest relative, the chimpanzee. Results indicate that students and teachers had limited knowledge about the evolved human capacity for cooperation around shared resources in small groups, most often viewing chimpanzees as more capable of cooperation and sustainable resource use. Based on the results of this classroom intervention, we highlight important learning opportunities for educators in biology on teaching human evolution and human behavior, particularly as related to current challenges of sustainable development.
What Is “Fair” Is Not the Same Everywhere
Hanisch, S., Eirdosh, D., Schäfer, M., and Haun, D. (2021). What Is “Fair” Is Not the Same Everywhere. Frontiers for Young Minds. 9:580435
When people must share things, what does it mean to share fairly? Do all people around the world have the same idea of what is fair or unfair? Are humans born with a feeling about what is fair and unfair, or is it something we learn as we grow up? Scientists study how people from different cultures choose to share things in various situations, and whether people think different ways of sharing are fair or unfair. This article describes an experiment in which scientists studied whether children from different cultures have different ideas about what is fair. These studies are important for understanding how humans are similar and different from each other and from other animals, and they also help us understand how we can work to create a world that is considered fair by everyone.
Educational potential of teaching evolution as an interdisciplinary science
Hanisch, S. & Eirdosh, D. (2020). Educational potential of teaching evolution as an interdisciplinary science. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 13 (25). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12052-020-00138-4
Evolution education continues to struggle with a range of persistent challenges spanning aspects of conceptual understanding, acceptance, and perceived relevance of evolutionary theory by students in general education. This article argues that a gene-centered conceptualization of evolution may inherently limit the degree to which these challenges can be effectively addressed, and may even precisely contribute to and exacerbate these challenges. Against that background, we also argue that a trait-centered, generalized, and interdisciplinary conceptualization of evolution may hold significant learning potential for advancing progress in addressing some of these persistent challenges facing evolution education. We outline a number of testable hypotheses about the educational value of teaching evolutionary theory from this more generalized and interdisciplinary conception.
Can the science of Prosocial be a part of evolution education?
Eirdosh, D., & Hanisch, S. (2020). Can the science of Prosocial be a part of evolution education. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 13 (5). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12052-020-00119-7
We provide a brief overview of Prosocial: Using Evolutionary Science to Build Productive, Equitable, and Collaborative Groups by Paul Atkins, David Sloan Wilson, and Steven Hayes. The book offers a range of promising content for evolution education, and yet also highlights core conceptual challenges in modern evolution science discourse that educators and researchers aiming to improve evolution education may find beneficial to strategically engage with as a scientific community. We discuss these challenges and opportunities with a view towards implications for evolution education research and practice.
Causal mapping as a teaching tool for reflecting on causation in human evolution
Hanisch, S. & Eirdosh, D. (2020). Causal mapping as a teaching tool for reflecting on causation in human evolution. Science & Education. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-020-00157-z
Teleological reasoning is viewed as a major hurdle to evolution education, and yet, eliciting, interpreting, and reflecting upon teleological language presents an arguably greater challenge to the evolution educator and researcher. This article argues that making explicit the role of behavior as a causal factor in the evolution of particular traits may prove productive in helping students to link their everyday experience of behavior to evolutionary changes in populations in ways congruent with scientific perspectives. We present a teaching tool, used widely in other parts of science and science education, yet perhaps underutilized in human evolution education—the causal map—as a novel direction for driving conceptual change in the classroom about the role of organism behavior and other factors in evolutionary change. We describe the scientific and conceptual basis for using such causal maps in human evolution education, as well as theoretical considerations for implementing the causal mapping tool in human evolution classrooms. Finally, we offer considerations for future research and educational design.
Conceptual clarification of evolution as an interdisciplinary science
Hanisch, S., & Eirdosh, D. (2020). Conceptual clarification of evolution as an interdisciplinary science. EdArXiv.
Preprint on EdArXiv: https://doi.org/10.35542/osf.io/vr4t5
Preprint on ResearchGate:
Challenges with conceptualizations of evolution in biology education
Hanisch, S., & Eirdosh, D. (2020). Challenges with conceptualizations of evolution in biology education. EdArXiv.
Preprint on EdArXiv: https://doi.org/10.35542/osf.io/2k9h3
Darwin's Roadmap to the Curriculum
Eirdosh, D., & Hanisch, S. (2019). The Role of Evolutionary Studies in Education for Sustainable Development. In: Geher, G., Wilson, D. S., Head, H., & Gallup, A. (Eds.) (2019). Darwin's Roadmap to the Curriculum: Evolutionary Studies in Higher Education. Oxford University Press.
Link to Oxford University Press page
Community Science Approaches to Understanding the Evolution of Everyday Cooperation
Poster presented at conference of the European Human Behavior and Evolution Association (EHBEA), March 2021, Virtual Conference.
A Community Science Lab for Teaching and Learning about Evolutionary Anthropology
Poster presented at the scientific advisory board meeting of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, January 2020, Leipzig, Germany.
Cultural Evolution in the Biology Classroom
Eirdosh, D., & Hanisch, S. (2017). Cultural Evolution in the Biology Classroom. Poster presented at the Inaugural Conference of the Cultural Evolution Society, September 13-15, 2017, Jena, Germany.