The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Broader Social Impacts: Physical Anthropology and the K-12 Classroom


School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

Thursday 1, Park Concourse Add to calendar

The role of physical anthropology in the K-12 classroom has not been examined in the context of student learning. To better understand the influence of PA education on students’ academic interests, professional goals and decision-making, a mixed-methods analysis including questionnaires and interviews of 44 undergraduate students was conducted. The results demonstrate that students who have a relatively high exposure to PA in K-12 are more likely to be interested in engineering or science (including health and medicine) majors and/or careers and demonstrate clearer decision-making skills regarding some socioscientific issues than students with less exposure to PA. These results hold regardless of the students’ religious background or level of acceptance of evolution.

We know, however, that approximately 20% of public high school biology teachers do not teach about evolution. Some reasons for this include a lack of knowledge of the subject and/or a lack of resources for teaching. In 2012, a new AP Biology curriculum and the Next Generation Science Standards were released and each includes expectations that teachers will teach about evolution. To assist teachers in adapting to and creating new curricula, physical anthropologists at universities, colleges, and museums are encouraged to engage in outreach programs that foster best practices for teaching evolutionary biology and integrate human examples into classroom lessons. Such activities can affect the quality of K-12 science education, cultivate student interest in science, and benefit researchers by establishing programs by which they can meet the broader social impacts criteria of granting agencies.

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