Sunday, June 19, 2005


Bryan Leonard: What Did He Teach?

This is an excerpt from the testimony of Bryan Leonard, a high school biology teacher, intelliegent design proponent, and Phd. candidate at Ohio State University. He testified about his research and teaching methods at the Kansas science hearings in May. As has been reported in Panda's Thumb, EvolutionBlog, and Inside Higher Ed, Leonard's advisor has postponed the scheduled defense of his dissertation at OSU. Leonard's dissertation committee has been reorganized following the resignation of one member after complaints by three Ohio State University professors that the composition of Leonard's committee lacks required subject matter experts and is stacked with ID proponents in violation of OSU regulations.

An issue has also been raised about whether Leonard violated Human Subjects Review procedures and had parents and students fill out informed consent releases -- since by teaching them intelligent design pseudoscience -- he made them subjects (perhaps against their will) in an experiment he was conducting.

In this excerpt, Leonard testifies to the nature of his lesson plan and what he teaches students.

JOHN CALVERT: Bryan, thank you for being here. Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, where you're currently employed and-- and a bit about your work on the doctoral degree?

BRYAN LEONARD: Yes. Thank you. My name is Bryan Leonard. I received my Bachelor's of Science Degree in biology education. I received my Master's Degree in microbiology. I'm currently working on my Ph.D., actually a Ph.D. candidate at the Ohio State University studying science education.

JC: And are you also employed as a high school teacher?

BL: Yes, I am, with-- in a suburban area right outside Columbus, Ohio

JC: Is that a privatized school?

BL: Yes, it is.

JC: And how long have you been teaching high school?

BL: Teaching high school biology for nine years now.

JC: What is the work of your-- you're working on a doctorate degree. Right?

BL: Yes, sir.

JC: And could you tell us a bit about that?

BL: I'm working on basically my doctoral dissertation deals with the area of evolution education, and specifically I'm looking at basically students reactions how-- how students react, how students believe and so and so forth when they're taught the scientific information both in terms of supporting and challenging macroevolution.

JC: Have you been involved in applying that knowledge to lesson plans for a while?

BL: Yes. I was able to be a part of the science writing committee for the State of Ohio in which each of the members on the science writing committee, we had to write exemplar curriculum lessons plans that were in line with the Ohio State standards. And I serve on-- on that committee for those-- (reporter interruption). Writing science curriculum for our 10th graders.

JC: And in your high school you're teaching 10th grade biology?

BL: Yes, I am.

JC: Teaching it how?

BL: Well, the way in which I teach it is similar in a way in which basically we wrote the lesson plan that was-- that-- that serves as the curriculum mono lesson, entitled Critical Analysis of Evolution. So that particular lesson plan, I was the original drafter, however I had a number of people who were involved in generation, shaping and the molding of that particular lesson. Went through an extensive peer review process. And the way in which I teach evolution in my high school biology class is that I teach the scientific information, or in other words, the scientific interpretations both supporting and challenging macroevolution.

JC: How long have you been doing it?

BL: I've been doing it for about-- I think this is probably about my fifth year. About five or six years now.

Note: RSR has skipped ahead in the transcript at this point in order to stick with the subject of what Leonard actually teaches.

JC: You might touch on what were the goals of-- of this product, and does that lead into your power point?

BL: Yeah, it could. Basically the-- the-- the goal of this lesson simply was to help students' knowledge of macroevolution, so that was basically the main goal of our particular lesson. Again, what type of things can we as educators, what type of things we as drafters of this lesson, how can we actually and sincerely put our students in a better position to learn evolution. So as you see here-- I'm going to have to walk. I'm a school teacher, so standing right here pointing is kind of difficult. But as you see here, goal number one with the critical analysis of evolution lesson, as well as my goal as an educator is to increase the students' knowledge of macroevolution. And you'll see here I have the word "students" in red, and the reason why I have it in red is because what-- as you're looking at that you're focusing on that red word. So that's one thing, hey, we need to focus on our students. What type of things are students going to gain most of all as a result of implementing this lesson, so throughout the power point presentation you will see the word "students" in red to-- more so to try and-- a kind of constant reminder in our mind, hey, we want to focus on the students. You know, how we can put our students in the best position to learn macroevolution. So how-- how-- how can we actually increase students' knowledge of evolution. All right. Go back. Go back. Okay. Find out what students are most interested in and teach towards their interests. Teach towards their interests. Yes. I asked my students in my dissertation study here, question: Which of the following would be more interesting to you-- rather, for you to learn, number one, scientific interpretation supporting macroevolution only. Number two, scientific interpretation supporting and challenging macroevolution. So I posed this question actually before I got to the evolution unit, just curious. Again, we wanted to teach towards their interests.

Note: RSR is skipping ahead again -- we know, it's already too long...

BL: … So what is my job as an educator? My job as an educator is actually trying to shape and mold and put my students in the best position to perform well on a test. Okay. You know, we have a set of assessments and various assessments there, so basically a-- I just want them basically to do well on the tests, as well as, of course, a number of other things, which I'll talk about a little later. Next. Teaching contradicting evidence-- I'm sorry, information and multiple points of view suggests supporting and challenging, help students stimulate more complete understanding and critical thinking. In this particular book by Rophy (sp), it is talking about how you present students with information that contradicts other information, discuss, present contradicting information forces students to recognize that the issue is more complex than they thought and stimulates students to develop more complete understanding. So, again, as educators, we want to teach towards the interests there, but also what kind of things can we do as an educator to actually help our students to develop a more complete understanding. Okay. In teaching the-- the scientific information both supporting and challenging macroevolution (emphasis added) I believe should and will do just that. This book entitled "Understanding By Design," this is actually by these two authors there that we use that textbook often, basically in our professional development as educators back in Ohio, or at least particularly in my school…


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