Educational Design Lab

The OpenEvo Educational Design Lab is a global community resource for supporting and evaluating innovations in teaching human behavior as an interdisciplinary theme, and evolution as an interdisciplinary science. 

Organized around the Global ESD design concept, the lab supports students, pre-service and in-service teachers in exploring, innovating, and evaluating our evolving database of teaching resources and ideas.  

We strive to integrate best pedagogical practices from a range of schools of thought into the design of lesson materials and aim to support educators in using a variety of tried and tested approaches and perspectives in education.

Unfortunately, discourse in education is often characterized by a battle between different camps swearing by a particular pedagogical approach, such as the value and need of direct instruction on the one hand, or the value and need of project-based, experiential, authentic experience and critical reflection on the other hand.

In contrast, the “multi-pedagogical” or “reflexive pedagogy” view promoted by Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis considers all of these different pedagogical approaches as playing an important role in learning – this is because learning involves different processes – different ways of knowing – including direct experience, conceptual understanding, critical reflection, and appropriate and creative application of the learned, all of which can best be cultivated by different pedagogical methods and approaches.

The point of good education is not to choose one over another and disregard the rest, but to choose the right approach for the right moment in the learning process, and to weave them all together in the best way such that learning is maximized.

The different knowledge processes that can be involved in learning and that require different pedagogical approaches are presented in the diagram to the right. 

Teaching for Transfer of Learning

One can say that a primary aim of education in general is to achieve understandings in students that will transfer out of the classroom into the real world and to novel phenomena.

One set of tools that educators use to cultivate these transfer skills is the engagement with analogies, metaphors, models and narratives. These tools are equally important and prevalent in scientific inquiry and science communication. Important in the engagement with and reflection on analogies is the explicit mapping of similarities and differences between analogous phenomena, particularly in terms of principles, processes and behaviors that go beyond mere surface features (Glynn, 2008; Harrison & Treagust, 2006).

Continuous engagement with analogy mappings across content material helps train students’ understanding of the nature of higher-level principles studied in modelsexperiments, or across case studies in biology and society, and even in everyday experience of ourselves as complex systems, and to understand that a diversity of context-specific instantiations of these principles may exist across these contexts.

Therefore, one of our overarching teaching tools used across various lesson materials is comprised of scaffolded analogy mapping activities with the aim to help students link specific example phenomena to generalized principles in evolution, behavioral ecology, and sustainability.

Examples include:

Want to learn more?

We are seeking motivated students and teachers of all levels and backgrounds to engage in thinking with us about your school as a field site for conceptual, creative, and critical understandings of cultural evolution. Contact Dustin Eirdosh directly, and/or join OpenEvo


  • Glynn, S. M. (2008). Making science concepts meaningful to students: Teaching with analogies. In: S. Mikelskis-Seifert, U. Ringelband, & M. Brückmann (Eds.), Four Decades of Research in Science Education: From Curriculum Development to Quality Improvement (pp. 113–125). Münster, Germany: Waxmann.

  • Haidt, J. (2007). The New Synthesis in Moral Psychology. Science, 316(5827), 998–1002.

  • Haidt, J. (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York, NY, USA: Pantheon Books.

  • Harrison, A. G. & Treagust, D. F. (2006). Teaching and Learning with Analogies: Friend or foe? In: Aubusson, P. J., Harrison, A. G., & Ritchie, S. M. (eds.). Metaphor and Analogy in Science Education. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer. p. 11 – 24.

  • Haskell, R. E. (2001). Transfer of Learning. Cognition, Instruction, and Reasoning. Academic Press.

  • Ostrom, E. (2009). A General Framework for Analyzing Sustainability of Social-Ecological Systems. Science, 325(5939), 419–422.

  • Seeley, T. D. (2010). Honeybee Democracy. Princeton, New Jersey, USA: Princeton University Press.

  • Vendetti, M. S., Matlen, B. J., Richland, L. E., & Bunge, S. A. (2015). Analogical Reasoning in the Classroom: Insights From Cognitive Science. Mind, Brain, and Education, 9(2), 100–106.

  • Wilson, D. S., Ostrom, E., & Cox, M. E. (2013). Generalizing the core design principles for the efficacy of groups. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 90, S21–S32.