Evo-Ed: an integrative case-based approach to evolution education


Peter White, Alexa Warwick, Louise Mead, Jim Smith

Students are often taught evolution in the context of ecological systems, isolated from genetic and cellular mechanisms. In reality, a complete understanding of evolution requires knowledge spanning many biological sub-disciplines. To address this issue, we developed cases that track the evolution of traits from the genetic level, to protein function, cell biology and macroecology. Currently, cases are available that help students examine the evolution of: (1) light fur color in beach mice; (2) seed shape and taste in peas; (3) toxin resistance in soft-shell clams; (4) color vision in primates; (5) citrate use in E. coli; and (6) lactase metabolism in humans. Cases can be implemented within a course, within a course sequence, or across an entire biology curriculum and are freely available for adaptation and use via Evo-Ed.org. Previous work using two Evo-Ed cases in undergraduate biology courses at MSU demonstrated that students were better able to explain the molecular basis of mutation, describe how mutations lead to phenotypic change, and make mechanistic links between genotypes and phenotypes. As part of a new grant project we are also developing more cases (i.e. human skin color) and adapting cases for high school classrooms as an integrative case curriculum with connected sets of lessons and online simulations.