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University Relations
800 Hotz Hall
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701

479.575.5555
FAX 479.575.4745

urelinfo@uark.edu

 
FOR RELEASE: Monday, August 27, 2007

Education Professor Wins Evolution Education Award

A University of Arkansas professor will receive the National Association of Biology Teachers’ top honor at a conference in November in Atlanta.

University of Arkansas professor William F. McComas poses with a giant tortoise on the Galapagos Islands, site of many of Darwin’s important insights into the mechanism for evolution.
University of Arkansas professor William F. McComas poses with a giant tortoise on the Galapagos Islands, site of many of Darwin’s important insights into the mechanism for evolution.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A University of Arkansas professor will receive the National Association of Biology Teachers’ top honor at a conference in November in Atlanta.

The association chose William F. McComas, the Parks Family Professor of Science Education in the College of Education and Health Professions, as the 2007 recipient of the Evolution Education Award. The award, sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, recognizes innovative classroom teaching and community education efforts to promote the accurate understanding of biological evolution. It includes a plaque and a cash prize.

McComas, who came to the University of Arkansas last fall from the University of Southern California, also will deliver the inaugural Kendall Hunt Lecture in Biology Education at the conference. His topic is “Using the History and Philosophy of Science to Solve the Challenges in Evolution Education.”

“This award provides another piece of evidence to the impact of the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century and the university’s Matching Gift Program,” said Reed Greenwood, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions. “The $1 billion raised by the capital campaign that concluded in 2005 has allowed us to recruit top-quality faculty members like Bill McComas who are recognized as national leaders in their fields.”

Letters written in support of McComas outlined his dedication to high-quality science education with evolution as the centerpiece.

“Not only does he encourage students to include evolution as part of the biology curriculum, he shares strategies for doing so and engages students in discussions of why this particular issue has become so problematic,” wrote Paul Narguizian, assistant professor of science education at California State University in Los Angeles.

Evolution education is plagued with misconceptions and misinterpretations, reflecting a general lack of understanding about the nature of science, Cassie Carter, executive director of the Montana Outdoor Science School, wrote in her letter of support.

“(McComas’) scholarly publications provide science educators, who often do not have the depth of knowledge needed to address these misconceptions, with the valuable resources to create effective programs,” Carter wrote. “His writings go past the standard clichés of Darwin’s finches and journeys on the Beagle, digging deeper into the fascinating history and philosophy of the scientists who shaped our modern views and understandings of evolution.”

McComas has edited two major books, one that addresses issues in the philosophy of science, The Nature of Science in Science Education (Springer 1998), and one that addresses the use of laboratory activities to teach the foundation elements of evolution by natural selection, Investigating Evolutionary Biology in the Laboratory (Kendall/Hunt 2006).

He illustrates lectures given around the world with photographs he has taken at sites from jungles in Southeast Asia and Central America to the Galapagos Islands and Downe House in England. A photographic exhibit of his work, “Galapagos: Evolution’s Showcase,” was on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History for more than 18 months.

The award raises awareness of the problems and promise of evolution education, McComas said.

“Only by recognizing and discussing the challenges of evolution instruction and by developing and sharing strategies for its solution can we hope to return evolution to its rightful place as the unifying concept of modern biology,” McComas wrote recently.

###

Contact:

William F. McComas, Parks Family Professor of Science Education
College of Education and Health Professions
(479) 575-7525, mccomas@uark.edu

Heidi Stambuck, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
(479) 575-3138, stambuck@uark.edu