Ecological and Evolutionary Principles for Secondary Education: Analyzing Career and Tech Ed

Publication George B. Richardson, Marisa E. Castellano, James R. Stone, and Blair K. SanningOctober 2015

Current approaches to secondary education expose students to cultural information and environmental conditions that were not typical features of youth development for the vast majority of human evolution. Understanding the mismatch between adolescents’ evolved information processing biases and the educational content and environmental cues they often experience in school can help us to identify and/or develop educational approaches that will work with student biases in attention and motivation, rather than against them. In this paper, we present an evolutionary perspective on adolescent learning, review life history theory, and describe how adolescents adopting a fast life history strategy (fast LHS) are especially susceptible to the mismatch between evolved biases and modern schooling. We then argue that learning in context is an approach that is more consistent with adolescents’ evolved biases than traditional academic school environments and suggest that career and technical education (CTE) is an existing model that can be used successfully in secondary education, especially with students following a fast LHS. We conclude with future directions for CTE research and also applications of evolutionary theory to education and educational psychology.

Richardson, G. B., Castellano, M. E., Stone, J. R. III, & Sanning, B. K. (2015). Ecological and evolutionary principles for secondary education:
Analyzing career and tech ed. Evolutionary Psychological Science. DOI 10.1007/s40806-015-0034-4

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