Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM
ACCEPTANCE AND UNDERSTANDING OF EVOLUTION: A SURVEY OF INTRODUCTORY GEOLOGY STUDENTS
Many students entering 100-level science courses do not meet the 12th grade benchmarks for scientific literacy regarding biological evolution (AAAS, 2009). Teaching evolution can be problematic, because it is a controversial topic that many people do not accept (Desantis, 2009), including some biology majors (Downie et al, 2000). Acceptance and understanding of the scientific theory of biological evolution have been linked in several studies, with one leading to the other (Clough, 1994). A survey was developed to measure the levels of acceptance and understanding of evolution of two introductory geology classes: a physical geology class (N=24) and a historical geology class (N=25). The optional survey asked students basic demographic questions and also consisted of three short answer questions and twenty-four Likert scale multiple-choice questions. The survey was scored separately for acceptance and understanding. The historical geology class had an acceptance percentage of 88.0% and understanding of 48.0%. The physical geology class had an acceptance percentage of 45.8% and understanding of 16.7%. STEM majors had a higher level of acceptance and understanding of evolution compared to Liberal Arts and Business majors. The historical geology class consisted of a much higher proportion of STEM majors, and received instruction of evolution during the spring semester. A significant correlation between evolution acceptance scores and understanding scores suggests that the teaching of evolutionary concepts could help students accept evolution and vice-versa (Gregory et al, 2009). Previous researchers found a significant correlation between religious preference, and acceptance of evolution (Chinsamy et al, 2007), a finding not significantly corroborated in this study. The survey itself can be used as a pre-test to help college educators measure both acceptance and understanding of biological evolution at the beginning of a course and to modify pedagogical methods accordingly. The survey can also be used at the end of a course as a post-test to measure the effectiveness of teaching strategies to improve student understanding and level of acceptance of biological evolution.