Studying Living Organisms

What is Your Explanation for the Evidence?

Jan David Snyder
Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute

Target age or
ability group:
High School (9-12) Mainstream and Language Minority Biology Class.
Class time
One class period on the computer Students will probably require a few minutes of introductory remarks and a brief model demonstration before use.
Materials and equipment: Macintosh computer with the Hypercard program
Summary of activity:
This interactive computer program activity is designed as a diagnostic of student beliefs related to the theory of evolution. The program consists of a series of Hypercard cascades structured around a set of biological topics related to evolutionary theory but without introducing the term "evolution." Each topic provides graphic and written information about specific observations found in nature. The program elicits open-ended student explanations to account for the relationships between observations.

The program grew out of the author's need to obtain greater insight into student beliefs in the evolutionary domain in order to tailor his teaching approach to address specific student understandings. The possibility of a culturally based patterns of belief in this area is addressed through a request for the user to identify her/his cultural background. The program is probably best used prior to academic instruction in evolution.

Teacher Guide to the Hypercard Program

The opening card provides an introductory explanation. The user then proceeds to the next card, which provides seven different options from which to choose. Each option provides a different problem from various topics. The user selects an option and receives preliminary information related to the specific choice. The user may choose to return to select another option or to continue with the initial choice. Once the user moves to the next card in a given option, the program requires the user to complete the option once a choice has been made.

Each option provides a cascade of cards consisting of graphics and written information. Throughout the cascade, the user is often encouraged to go to a "Notes" card to record thoughts and ideas. After each use of the note card, the user is able to return to the most recent card in the cascade and continue. As the user proceeds, there are repeated opportunities to return to the note card to add ideas. Upon completion of the selected option cascade, the user is again presented with the question with which he or she started and asked to provide an explanation for the observations presented. The user is encouraged to consider both cultural and family beliefs in the explanation, and there is an explicit statement that no answer can be considered incorrect as long as the user makes an effort to provide explanation. Before the user types his or her answer, there is an option to print the notes.

When the assignment is completed, the user can click the "Print" button. This initiates several actions. Both the student's answer and notes are printed, then all user entries are cleared (name, ethnicity, notes and answer), and then the program returns to the introductory card ready for the next user.

For further information and a copy of the program call or write:
Mr. Jan David Snyder
Camelback High School
4612 North 28th Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85016
(602) 817-6036

This program is written on Hypercard. Graphics utilize Claris Works

If you wish a computer copy of the program please include a pre-formatted Macintosh, high-density, blank disk with your request.

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