Evolution acceptance and epistemological beliefs of college biology students

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Journal of Research in Science Teaching





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Evolutionary theory is central to biology, and scientifically accurate evolution instruction is promoted within national and state standards documents. Previous literature has identified students’ epistemological beliefs as potential predictors of evolution acceptance. The present work seeks to explore more directly how student views of evolution are related to their epistemological beliefs. We hypothesize that evolution acceptance may be related to students’ epistemological beliefs and that this relationship may vary depending on students’ relationship to the field of biology, either as an experienced major, a new major, or a non-major. Specifically, this manuscript investigates how college students’ evolution acceptance may be connected to Perry developmental levels for three distinct groups of students: upper-level majors, first-year majors, and non-majors. A sequential explanatory mixed methods approach entailing quantitative surveys followed by individual interviews was employed. In total, 395 college-level biology students from three classes were surveyed, and 44 students were interviewed. Descriptive quantitative trends were identified, and evolution acceptance varied predictably by both Perry level and Class. Qualitative analysis explained these quantitative findings in terms of participants’ identification with science, views of authority, views of the compatibility of evolution and religion, and appreciation for the tentative nature of science with respect to evolution. Potential implications for science educators at the college level are discussed. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 54: 493–519, 2017. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.



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