Teach the Earth > Affective Domain > Dilemmas about Teaching > Selective use of evidence to support viewpoints

Selective use of evidence to support viewpoints

Dilemma

Tania Vislova, Kaatje Kraft

In an Introductory Geology class you give your students a final project where they select their own topic of interest. John chooses the theory of evolution. By the time of you first meet with him to discuss the project, he has found a lot of information on the Internet which claims to have evidence that disproves the theory of evolution. Clearly he is very excited about finding scientific information that supports his preconceived ideas and long held beliefs. In general, how do you respond?

How do you help him to see the flaws in the data he presents when he has such a limited scientific background?

Would you support him in continuing in his current direction of study and focus or would you try to use it as a teaching opportunity for the whole class?

In either case, how do you address this issue without alienating and diminishing John's fundamentally held beliefs?


Responses

Alan Boyle, Claudia Khourey-Bowers

How would you help him see the flaws in the data he presents?

  • Have a dialogue with the student, helping him critique the data that he already has collected
  • Have John research additional information, giving him guidance in the sources of data he should consider
  • Guide John in developing strategies to use in the future to analyze data
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting with John, to discuss whether the new data sources support his initial interpretation

Would you support him in continuing in his current direction of study and focus or would you try to use it as a teaching opportunity for the whole class?

  • We would use this as a mentoring opportunity for the individual student. For future descriptions of the research assignment, specific sources of data would be given.

How do you address this issue without alienating and diminishing John's fundamentally held beliefs?

  • This solution has addressed John as an individual learner, not as a believer of specific religious beliefs. The hope would be that John would develop more critical analytic skills in distinguishing good sources of data from not-so-good sources, without challenging his religious orientation.

Selective use of evidence to support viewpoints  

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