Students’ Use of Alternative Scientific Causal Models in Explanations about Evolutionary Change: Selective vs. Stochastic Reasoning
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Publisher:Evolution Education and Outreach
Citation:Beggrow, E.P. and Nehm, R.H. 2012. Students' mental models of evolutionary causation: Natural selection and genetic drift. Evo Edu Outreach, 5(3), 429-‐444.
Series/Report no.:2013 Edward F. Hayes Graduate Research Forum. 27th
Non-adaptive, stochastic evolutionary causes, such as genetic drift, comprise an important element of biologists’ explanatory models of evolutionary change, and yet science education research has focused almost exclusively on student ideas and misconceptions about natural selection. After instruction that includes stochastic causal factors (such as genetic drift), how do students construct evolutionary explanations? We used clinical interviews, open- response and multiple-choice instruments to investigate undergraduate students’ non-adaptive reasoning (NAR) patterns. After instruction, we found NAR to be very uncommon in students’ explanatory models of evolutionary change in both written assessments and clinical interviews. However, when NAR was used by students, it was conceptualized in an expert-like way; that is, non-adaptive and stochastic factors were modeled as alternatives to selection. Interestingly, non- adaptive reasoning was not found to be associated with greater understanding of natural selection in interviews or written assessments, or with fewer misconceptions of natural selection. Thus, NAR appears to be a distinct facet of evolutionary thinking. Greater attention to NAR in biology education is needed given how uncommonly students use it to explain evolutionary change.
Education and Human Ecology: 2nd Place (The Ohio State University Edward F. Hayes Graduate Research Forum)
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