Effects of Discourse on High School Students’ Conceptual Understanding of Natural Selection

Effects of Discourse on High School Students’ Conceptual Understanding of Natural Selection
Thesis
Description: 

Full Abstract: Evolution, and more specifically, natural selection, is the foundation of many biological topics. Thus, a scientific understanding of this concept is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of biology. However, studies have revealed that high school students have a limited understating of natural selection and often apply non-scientific reasoning when thinking about the way populations change over time. Therefore, there is a need for interventions that reveal students’ reasoning and promote the construction of accurate scientific understanding.

This study examines the effects of an argumentative discourse intervention on high school students’ conceptual understanding of natural selection. The participants included two sophomore biology classes (n=67) from an urban high school in Southern California. The control class was provided traditional lecture-based instruction while the experimental class participated in argumentative discourse regarding three different phenomena of natural selection. Both the control and experimental class were administered a pre and post-test, and three students from each class were interviewed before and after the treatment to examine any change in conceptual understanding. This intervention was designed to allow students to confront any potential issues with their non-scientific reasoning while providing the opportunity to construct a scientific understanding of natural selection. While neither the control nor experimental class produced significant gains between pre- and post-tests, student interviews revealed a greater shift in scientific understanding of natural selection for the experimental group when compared to the control group, especially where it concerns an understanding of survival of the fittest.

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WHDL ID: 
WHDL-00005490
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