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How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom
But wait, I don’t understand. How can dying be a good thing?
Well, you have to think beyond just survival of the male himself. We think that the key is the survival of the kids. If the male can protect his young and give them a better chance of surviving then he has an advantage.
Even if he dies doing it?
Yeah, because he will have already passed on his genes and stuff to his kids before he dies.
How did you come up with this? Did you see something in the packets that we didn’t see?
One reason we thought of it had to do with the last case with the monarchs and viceroy.
Yeah, we were thinking that the advantage isn’t always obvious and sometimes what is good for the whole group might not seem like it is good for one bird or butterfly or whatever.
We also looked at the data in our packets on the number of offspring fathered by brighter versus duller males. We saw that the brighter males had a longer bar.
See, look on page 5, right here.
So they had more kids, right?
We saw that table too, but we thought that it could back up our idea that the brighter males were able to attract more females as mates.
The groups agree to disagree on their interpretation of this piece of data and continue to compare their explanations on other points.
The students in the above vignette are using Darwin’s model of natural selection and realistic data to create arguments about evolution in a population of organisms. In doing so, they attend to and discuss such ideas as selective advantage and reproductive success that are core components of the Darwinian model. Early in the course, students have opportunities to learn about natural selection, but as the course progresses, they are required to use their understanding to develop explanations (as illustrated in the vignette). As was true in teaching genetics, our goals for student learning include both deep understanding of evolution and an understanding of how knowledge in evolution is generated and justified. And once again we want students to be able to use their understanding to engage in scientific inquiry—to construct their own Darwinian explanations.