Science & Education

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 255–278 | Cite as

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

  • Alan C. LoveEmail author


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.


Problem Agenda Phenotypic Plasticity Reasoning Strategy Functional Homology National Science Education Standard 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am grateful to Douglas Allchin, Ingo Brigandt, Tom Doyle, Kostas Kampourakis, Alessandro Minelli, and Molly Paxton for incisive comments and helpful suggestions on earlier versions of this paper. Although I could not incorporate all of their recommendations, the resulting paper benefited tremendously from those that I did. In particular, Tom Doyle convinced me that much more should be said about how my analysis bears on conventional models of teaching and translates into different classroom contexts. My ignorance of the former and lack of experience with the latter necessitate postponing the requisite discussion to a future date.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Minnesota Center for Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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