The lecture machine: A cultural evolutionary model of pedagogy in higher education

Daniel Z. Grunspan, Michelle Ann Kline, Sara E. Brownell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The benefits of student-centered active-learning approaches are well established, but this evidence has not directly translated into instructors adopting these evidence-based methods in higher education. To date, promoting and sustaining pedagogical change through different initiatives has proven difficult, but research on pedagogical change is advancing. To this end, we examine pedagogical behaviors through a cultural evolutionary model that stresses the global nature of the issue, the generational time that change requires, and complications introduced by academic career trajectories. We first provide an introduction to cultural evolutionary theory before describing our model, which focuses on how cultural transmission processes and selection events at different career phases shape not only who teaches in higher education, but also how they choose to teach. We leverage our model to make suggestions for expediting change in higher education. This includes reforming pedagogy in departments that produce PhD students with the greatest chance of obtaining tenure-track positions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberes6
JournalCBE life sciences education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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