Interdisciplinary Lessons for the Teaching of Biology from the Practice of Evo-Devo

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Evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo) is a vibrant area of contemporary life science that should be (and is) increasingly incorporated into teaching curricula. Although the inclusion of this content is important for biological pedagogy at multiple levels of instruction, there are also philosophical lessons that can be drawn from the scientific practices found in Evo-devo. One feature of particular significance is the interdisciplinary nature of Evo-devo investigations and their resulting explanations. Instead of a single disciplinary approach being the most explanatory or fundamental, different methodologies from biological disciplines must be synthesized to generate empirically adequate explanations. Thus, Evo-devo points toward a non-reductionist epistemology in biology. I review three areas where these synthetic efforts become manifest as a result of Evo-devo's practices (form versus function reasoning styles; problem-structured investigations; idealizations related to studying model organisms), and then sketch some possible applications to teaching biology. These philosophical considerations provide resources for life science educators to address (and challenge) key aspects of the National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-278
Number of pages24
JournalScience and Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


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