Construction of a diagnostic instrument to investigate misconceptions in grade 12 students' understanding of evolution

Year: 2014

Author: Kah Huat Robin, Seoh, Subramaniam, Ramanathan, Yin Kiong, Hoh

Type of paper: Refereed paper

  Despite the inclusion of the teaching of biological evolution in the classroom for decades, the teaching and learning of concepts related to evolution continue to pose difficulties for students, due to their inability to see the relevance of evolution to the phenomena they experience in their everyday lives. In this study, we report the results from questionnaires composed of twelve multiple-choice items derived and modified from the literature to determine the prevalence and severity of alternative conceptions related to soft inheritance and use-and-disuse. In the open-ended section after each item, students were also allowed to describe their reasoning behind the answers they chose. The results showed that while both types of alternative conceptions are present in our respondents as reported in other studies, the rate of application of alternative conceptions dipped tremendously when human-based scenarios were adopted as compared to scenarios involving other organisms. This is especially true for the concepts related to soft inheritance. We attribute the difference to familiarity with the elements presented in the stem of the question, and a lack of consistency in applying their biological knowledge for non-human organisms. The results suggest that learners tend to apply the correct principles of inheritance only for phenomena that constitute part of their everyday experiences, and have strong implications for how evolution should be taught in schools.