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Problem-based discussion: Natural selection in Darwin's finches


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This set of two PowerPoint slides featuring questions for problem-based discussion (i.e., open-ended questions that engage students with each other and with course material) can be easily incorporated into lectures on natural selection.

UC Museum of Paleontology

Grade level:

5-20 minutes

Teaching tips:
With increased experience, the instructor will be able to develop additional problem-based discussion questions, optimizing them for particular applications and topics. To learn more about how problem-based discussion and other types of active-learning activities can be easily incorporated into lecture (and for more downloadable slides!), visit our guide to active learning in the undergraduate classroom.

Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.

  • Evolution can sometimes be directly observed.

  • Evolution occurs through multiple mechanisms.

  • Evolution results from natural selection acting upon genetic variation within a population.

  • Evolution results from genetic drift acting upon genetic variation within a population.

  • Natural selection and genetic drift act on the variation that exists in a population.

  • Variation of a character within a population may be discrete or continuous.

  • Inherited characteristics affect the likelihood of an organism's survival and reproduction.

  • Over time, the proportion of individuals with advantageous characteristics may increase (and the proportion with disadvantageous characteristics may decrease) due to their likelihood of surviving and reproducing.

  • Traits that confer an advantage may persist in the population and are called adaptations.

  • The number of offspring that survive to reproduce successfully is limited by environmental factors.

  • Natural selection can act on the variation in a population in different ways.

  • Natural selection may favor individuals with one extreme value for a trait, shifting the average value of that trait in one direction over the course of many generations.

Teacher background:

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