New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Teaching Evolution Using Mindfulness-Based Methods

Elizabeth Watts, Friedrich Schiller Universität Jena (Germany)


Examining the creationist phenomenon from an evolutionary stand-point: how mindful teaching may provide the answer to increased student receptivity.

It is widely known that there are subjects taught in science classrooms that can cause negative emotional states in both students and teachers.  During such emotional states, students can shut down, cognitive functions are reduced and they become less receptive – even resistant - to the lessons presented to them. This type of reaction makes it difficult for teachers to meet their educational goals.  Here I look at one such subject [evolution] and one specific group that is particularly resistant to teachings on evolution [creationists] and offer evolutionary reasoning for creationist resistance to teachings on evolution while also introducing specific techniques to help such students become more receptive to learning and teachers more comfortable teaching this often emotionally salient subject.

In order for creationist students to be more receptive and less resistant to lessons regarding evolution, I propose creating a learning environment where students can feel safe even when they maintain a different worldview than the teacher and also feel respected when presenting questions or comments that are contrary to their classmates’ worldviews.  Only in this way can we prevent the fight, flight, freeze reaction and enter into an authentic dialogue with the students, enabling them to effectively hear and learn about evolution and its major role in modern science.

I propose that this type of learning environment can be created using mindfulness-based techniques and others cognitive tools such as radical acceptance, learning from other, effective goal oriented action, non-judgmental attitude etc. In using these methods, the goal is for both the educator and the student to be able to interact with one another using their “upstairs” brain, defined as the part of the brain responsible for logic-based decision making and emotional regulation (according to Siegel). This type of responsive versus reactive interaction allows for not only more effective learning but also has the potential to generate other positive attributes such as increased well-being, a deeper teacher-student relationship and general emotional and intellectual growth.


mindfulness, evolution, creationism, learning, worldviews


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