Project Title

Exploring Introductions to Biological Anthropology Before College Using Textbook Content Analysis

Presenters

Academic department under which the project should be listed

RCHSS - Geography & Anthropology

Faculty Sponsor Name

Alice Gooding

Abstract (300 words maximum)

Many studies have been conducted examining how evolutionary theory is taught in K-12 and found a lack of material being presented to students because of religious reasons. However, the material within the textbooks was not analyzed, nor were the standards or curriculum. Cobb County public schools are not required to teach students about primates or paleoanthropology, most likely because the processes human evolution is heavily debated socially. Nevertheless, students are required to learn about population genetics and natural selection. For this study, sections about primates, human evolution, and microevolution were transcribed from five common high school science textbook. Language, photographs, and topics were assessed. Using NVivo software, sentences were organized using keywords as categories. Results show a distinct lack of information on primates and human evolution in the textbooks sampled. For example, only two out the five textbooks mention the word “prosimian,” and both of those books place tarsiers in the prosimian category, which is an out-of-date classification. Further, only three out of the five books mentioned paleoanthropology as the study of human ancestors. However, the microevolution sections followed the same formula for terms and definitions, and therefore were relatively the same in regard to the four components of microevolution: natural selection, gene flow, genetic drift, and mutation. Four of the textbooks were co-authored by the same person, and consequently had similar—if not identical—material. The results of this study demonstrate a concerning lack of knowledge about human evolution and primates prior to exposure in college. The author argue that these findings may be linked to the difficulty in introducing biological anthropology at the undergraduate level, primarily because the topic may be foreign to many students.

Project Type

Poster

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Exploring Introductions to Biological Anthropology Before College Using Textbook Content Analysis

Many studies have been conducted examining how evolutionary theory is taught in K-12 and found a lack of material being presented to students because of religious reasons. However, the material within the textbooks was not analyzed, nor were the standards or curriculum. Cobb County public schools are not required to teach students about primates or paleoanthropology, most likely because the processes human evolution is heavily debated socially. Nevertheless, students are required to learn about population genetics and natural selection. For this study, sections about primates, human evolution, and microevolution were transcribed from five common high school science textbook. Language, photographs, and topics were assessed. Using NVivo software, sentences were organized using keywords as categories. Results show a distinct lack of information on primates and human evolution in the textbooks sampled. For example, only two out the five textbooks mention the word “prosimian,” and both of those books place tarsiers in the prosimian category, which is an out-of-date classification. Further, only three out of the five books mentioned paleoanthropology as the study of human ancestors. However, the microevolution sections followed the same formula for terms and definitions, and therefore were relatively the same in regard to the four components of microevolution: natural selection, gene flow, genetic drift, and mutation. Four of the textbooks were co-authored by the same person, and consequently had similar—if not identical—material. The results of this study demonstrate a concerning lack of knowledge about human evolution and primates prior to exposure in college. The author argue that these findings may be linked to the difficulty in introducing biological anthropology at the undergraduate level, primarily because the topic may be foreign to many students.