Department of Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education


Document Type


Date of this Version



Electronic Journal of Science Education, 6:2 (2001)


If we are to be successful in teaching evolution, we must take into account our students' worldviews as well as their individual understandings and misconceptions. It is im-portant to know our students their cultures, personal his-tories, cognitive abilities, religious beliefs, [and] scientific misconceptions. [It is also important] to address directly the likely cultural/religious concerns with evolution and to do so early on so as to break down the barriers that keep many students from hearing what you say. (Smith, 1994, p. 591)

Smith penned these words for a special issue of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching which focused on the "Teaching and Learning of Biological Evolution." One inference to be drawn from Smith is that, should we fail to account directly for the needs of our target learners, we are destined to develop curricu-lum materials and instructional plans that fall far short of the level of scientific literacy we wish to engender. Thus, although the standards they set possess scientific integrity, efforts initiated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, 1993) and National Research Council (NRC, 1996) -- to accurately characterize the foundational importance of evolutionary theory to the discipline of biology -- may not be fully realized. Does the research literature support Smith's contention? The purpose of this study was to examine students' perception about evolution-ary theory.