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Talk: Understanding agency in evolution education @ FDdB-Tagung 2023 Ludwigsburg

Humans are born with a drive to notice the behaviors of the agents around us. This drive develops into our expansive capacities for interpreting the minds and goals of those agents. Our propensities for such agential cognition are a foundation for our ability to engage in shared goals and the emergence of societies through culture. Despite this foundational aspect to human reasoning about agency, the development of our conceptual understanding of agency can be far from intuitive. Evolution education, classically conceptualized, has been largely focused on suppressing such agential reasoning. Agential reasoning is often viewed as antagonistic to evolutionary reasoning, and reasoning about agential causes may be framed in dichotomous terms, as oppositional to evolutionary reasoning. Yet, evolutionary processes very frequently involve agents with goals at various levels of organization within complex systems. These goal-directed agents sometimes act in ways that influence trait functions or selection pressures within ecosystems. Thus, how humans develop a generalized and structured scientific understanding of the concept of agency in relation to evolution is of central importance, both to our everyday living, and our scientific literacy, as individuals, communities, and as a species. We present a novel framework and early empirical work in educational design research to support interdisciplinary innovations at the intersection of evolution and sustainability education, focused, in part, on developing a conceptual understanding of agency.

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