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Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) WarmUp Activity: When "Modern" Human Behavior Appeared in Early Hominids

Laura Guertin, Penn State University Delaware County
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1) What is this controversy in regards to the emergence of "modern" human behavior? In your opinion, what do you think "modern" human behavior means?

2) How do beads symbolize modern human behavior and modern thought?

3) In the "African bone tools..." article, there is the following paragraph: "What has been suggested up until now... is that modern human behavior was a very late occurrence... that though people were anatomically modern in Africa from about 150,000 to 100,000 years ago, they remained behaviorally non-modern until about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, when they suddenly changed and then moved into Europe and elsewhere." Does it make sense to you that people from ~150,000 years ago would have remained in a period of "stasis" and would not have evolved or changed for almost 100,000 years? I want you to think about what causes organisms to undergo change, think of processes occurring in the modern-day environment as well, and apply some of your thinking to this answer.

Student Responses:

See the Just-in-Time Teaching page on assessment for information and ideas on how to evaluate student responses.

Students appear to struggle with the idea of geologic time and what it means to be a "modern" human. Instructors should prepare for some questions relating to the social aspect of early hominids - for example, were there races of early hominids, and how did the groups interact with one another?

References and Notes:

Articles that students may be assigned to read for this set of questions include (but are not limited to):

African Bone Tools Dispute Key Idea About Human Evolution, National Geographic News, November 8, 2001.

Is Bead Find Proof Modern Thought Began in Africa?, National Geographic News, March 31, 2004.

Oldest Jewelry? "Beads" Discovered in African Cave, National Geographic News, April 15, 2004.

The use of Just-in-Time Teaching is discussed in detail on the JiTT Starting Point page.

Additional information on JiTT is available in the book:

  • Just-in-Time Teaching: Blending Active Learning with Web Technology. Novak et al., 1999 The authors explain what Just-in-Time Teaching is, its underlying goals and philosophies, and how to implement it. They also provide an extensive section of tested resource materials that can be used in introductory physics courses with the JiTT approach. (citation and description)