Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology

First Committee Member

Gale M. Sinatra

Number of Pages



The learning and teaching of biological evolution, the nature of science and situations of chance is conceptually challenging. Attempts to increase understanding in these domains has resulted in limited occurrences of success, and the identification of many related misconceptions. The alternative conceptions have been detected in teachers as well as students, which reflects the complexity of learning the content. Teachers' understanding of these concepts is critical to assuring they do not perpetuate misconceptions by teaching them to their students. The consistent detection of misconceptions in teachers suggests that new approaches to increasing understanding of these concepts need to be explored. In this project it was hypothesized that misconceptions of biological evolution were the result of a lack of understanding about the stochastic processes associated with evolution. The preservice teachers participating in this project were from a state university in an urban setting in a city in the southwest United States. This project began with the measurement of the preservice teachers understanding of biological evolution, situations of uncertainty, and the nature of science. Demographic data was collected to determine the relationship between personal attributes and the understanding and acceptance in the three domains of study. The instructional intervention for the experimental group involved a combination of web based tutorials focused on misconceptions of biological evolution, and related concepts of nature of science and situations of uncertainty which were presented in the context of evolution. The control group received the same web based evolution and nature of science instruction without the situations of uncertainty instruction. To assure similar time on task the control group received an instructional model describing Darwin's voyage on the Beagle. A delayed post test and the development of a lesson idea provided the quantitative and qualitative data necessary for the determination of the instructional impact on conceptual change and the development of content knowledge. The analysis indicates that the inclusion of situations of uncertainty content with biological evolution instruction increases understanding of the process and initiates the process of conceptual change leading to a greater comprehension of concepts. The lesson idea analysis indicates that the interventions increased teachers' knowledge and ideas about teaching the concepts in the domains of the study. Analyses of personal characteristics provide evidence for detectable relationships between understanding and acceptance of concepts and individual attributes. The results of this study support the need for further investigation into the impact of combined curricula on promoting conceptual change, addressing learner and teacher misconceptions, and developing content knowledge.


Chance; Conceptual Change; Evolution; Nature; Nature Of Science; Preservice Teachers; Science; Situations; Teachers; Understanding

Controlled Subject

Science--Study and teaching; Teachers--Training of

File Format


File Size

5519.36 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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