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Teaching materials:
Using Evo in the News with students
by the Understanding Evolution team

Evo in the News
Evo in the News articles are a rich resource for instructors. These illustrated articles examine issues currently being covered by the popular press and explore the evolutionary concepts inherent in the story, which may be glossed over by the media. Each comes with a set of discussion/essay questions, as well as links to the primary literature, background reading, and related teaching materials. Many are further supplemented by the inclusion of real datasets for student interpretation and/or a video podcast from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. A new story is produced each month, and an archive of more than 50 articles is available. Here, we'll describe what can be accomplished using these articles and suggest some ways the articles can be assigned to students.

Using Evo in the News articles with students can help instructors address several instructional goals:

  • Evo in the News articles emphasize the relevance of evolution to everyday life and can serve as compelling "hooks" to get students interested in learning about evolutionary theory.
  • Evo in the News articles often correct common misconceptions about evolution.
  • Evo in the News articles can be used as illustrations of the process of science in evolutionary biology, a field in which students may wonder whether and how experiments can be performed.
  • Many Evo in the News articles encourage students to reason about authentic scientific data and can serve as entry points to explorations of the primary literature.
  • Evo in the News articles reinforce and expand upon specific evolutionary concepts, putting them in real world contexts.

Evo in the News articles can be assigned in many different ways:

  • Lecture hook: Recent or archived news stories can be incorporated into lecture to demonstrate the relevance of evolution and the currency of evolutionary research.
  • In-class clicker questions: The instructor can assign reading the article as homework, develop clicker questions based on the discussion questions in the article, and use this as the basis for an in-class, active learning exercise.
  • In-class writing assignment: At the beginning or end of class, students can be asked to read an Evo in the News article relevant to the lecture topic and write a one-minute response regarding the relationship between the news article and lecture.
  • Group discussion: The instructor could divide students into groups and ask students to read the article and discuss among themselves the relationship between the news article and lecture topic, or the instructor could lead a whole-class discussion based on the discussion questions included with the article.
  • Homework: Students (either individually or in groups) can be asked to read through the news story, answer the questions outside of class, and turn in the answers. To save instructor time, these could be graded by teaching assistants, by the instructor with a check-minus/check/check-plus system, or by the students' peers.
  • Research and writing project: After reading several Evo in the News articles, students or groups of students can be asked to identify a topic in the popular press with a "hidden" evolution angle (e.g., a report on human nutrition, a new flu strain, etc.) and write an Evo-in-the-News-style report describing the topic and the evolution behind the scenes.

Visit the Evo in the News archives to browse articles or use the search function below to find articles on particular topics:

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