Not by design alone! Modelling practices to identify students’ frameworks on evolution in real-life contexts

Noa Ageitos*, Laura Colucci-Gray, Blanca Mauriz-Puig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Despite being a fundamental concept in biology, evolution continues to be one of the most challenging topics to teach in science education. Ideas of evolution emphasising anatomical or behavioural features of individuals as opposed to the interplay between genetics and the environment are reinforced through language and culture, making them robust and persistent in the students’ population at all educational levels. Model-based reasoning has been reported to be useful for students to make sense of process-based science content, combining epistemological with linguistic and value dimensions. However, there is a dearth of evidence in biology education showing how modelling can instigate epistemological maturity about issues of agency and design in evolution by natural selection. Drawing on this perspective, this study focuses on describing the nature of students’ ideas while modelling the resistance developed by a population of mosquitoes in a lagoon when an insecticide is introduced. Five small groups of 10th grade students (N=21) were involved. Data collection includes students’ written reports and drawings which were analysed both through content and discourse analysis. Findings show that at first, students believed adaptation to feature at will as a behavioural characteristic instigated by a pre-existing design. After modelling the process of natural selection, the explanations appeared to improve (from Lamarckian to Neo-Darwinian views) and most groups showed accurate explanations about adaptation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-34
Number of pages24
JournalCentre for Educational Policy Studies Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • modelling
  • evolution
  • adaptation
  • natural selection
  • evolution frameworks


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