Evolution Institute

Thor Gets an F in the Dangers of the Mastodon. Funeral to Be Held This Evening. How Evolution Can Inform Schooling


Tampa, FL -- (ReleaseWire) -- 10/14/2013 --Imagine Neanderthal children sitting in a classroom learning how to hunt Mastodons. “Now students,” the teacher might say, “if you are standing at the edge of the clearing and the tall Mastodon by the big tree begins its charge towards you, how long do you have to get out of the way? Show your work.” Poor Thor failed to focus his attention in the classroom and he paid the ultimate price.

The absurdity of this setting is manifest. Imagining a cave dweller attending a classroom makes for a humorous image as no one argues that our biological ancestors learned from sitting in a classroom. This mismatch between the way our learning has evolved and how we teach has a profound impact on many students in the modern classroom.

Leading researchers who have been studying the evolutionary roots of education will be meeting In Arlington, Virginia, November 7th to the 9th, to review and present the most recent research on this topic as well as to shape a research agenda. The conference, sponsored by the Evolution Institute, a scientific think tank, and funded by the American Educational Research Association, is a critical step in advancing our understanding of how evolution has shaped human learning processes in order to effectively address the ever growing demands to learn increasingly complex and abstract information.

David Geary, a conference co-organizer, says “the recent global recession and the consequences for workers without a strong academic foundation highlight the critical importance of schooling. Insights into how evolution has shaped what children learn easily and what they struggle to learn will have profound implications for improving this schooling and through this implications for society more broadly.”

One prominent example of research from this emerging field that has demonstrated its potential is a pilot program designed on evolutionary principles. The Regents Academy pilot randomly assigned students who failed at least 3 courses into either the evolutionary-science informed program or a control group. The former reached grade level within one year, while the latter showed no change.

Dan Berch, also a co-organizer, says, “It is a distinct pleasure to see such excitement among a group of researchers from different disciplines around the theme of evolutionary perspectives on education. This is one of the few events I have encountered that is so cross-disciplinary, bringing in biologists and anthropologists, along with evolutionary, educational, and developmental psychologists to address the most important social issue of our time: educating our youth.”

This conclave includes some of the more influential education researchers of their generation: David Geary, David Bjorklund, John Sweller, Roberta Golinkoff and nine others.

Jerry Miller, Executive Director of the Evolution Institute, says “Education is one of the sciences that is influenced in a positive way by our increased understanding of evolution and how it shapes our behavior. As long as we can continue with the rigorous research this conference represents, we can potentially have a tremendous impact on the learning process, to the ultimate benefit of the students. “

The meeting is an invitation only meeting but reports will be posted on the evolution-institute website.

Contacts and further information:

Lead program scientist – Daniel Berch, dberch@virginia.edu, 434-924-0763
Co-lead program scientist –David Geary, gearyd@missouri.edu, 573-882-6268
Evolution Institute contact – Jerry Miller jerrymiller@evolution-institute.org 813 494 3017.

Conference abstracts - http://evolution-institute.org/node/253
Conference bio’s - http://evolution-institute.org/node/254
Articles on the Regents Academy Pilot program – http://evolution-institute.org/regents-academy