T. Trevisan, G. Santovito

University of Padova, Department of Biology (ITALY)
The present research compares the results obtained by using two different methods of instruction in teaching Darwin’s evolution theory: laboratory activities and traditional lessons based on text-books.

I built up a teaching path on evolution using laboratory activities, in order to highlights how the main concepts of this theory (selection, adaptation, variability, inheritance, case, time) can be handled also by doing, interacting, cooperating, in other words by “putting students thinking into action”. This path does not refer to a real scientific laboratory (as a physical space with materials and instruments) but to an educational laboratory, “poor” and characterised by limited in time activities. Widening the definition of laboratory allows teachers to make active and informal learning contexts, exploiting educational resources supplied by those centres which promote both culture and knowledge, as well as by specific events organized in the scientific network. Every activity has been planned to explain one or more of the main themes, using the following methods: economy of ideas, logical coherence, introductory value, scientific accuracy.

The experimental samples were third year students attending secondary school. A questionnaire was used before and after the course, to probe students’ acceptance and understanding of evolution. In both methods results highlighted relevant differences in understanding concepts, in religious-based questions and in scientific facts regarding evolution. Moreover, the comparison of answers obtained using either the traditional or the laboratory method shows several differences. In particular, the percentage of students accepting and understanding the evolution theory is much higher in those who participated to laboratory lessons.

In conclusion it can be assumed that, in teaching the evolution, lessons proposing scientific experiments through active and practical activities are much more effective than lessons based on school-books and frontal methods. Thus, a teaching path based on interaction and cooperation of students in scientific laboratory is to be considered more successful.