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Conceptual Characterization of Threshold Concepts in Student Explanations of Evolution by Natural Selection and Effects of Item Context
Linköping University, Department of Science and Technology, Media and Information Technology. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering. (Visuellt lärande och kommunikation)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5038-9630
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Division of Learning, Aesthetics, Natural Science. Linköping University, Faculty of Educational Sciences.
IPN - Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education.
Linköping University, Department of Science and Technology, Media and Information Technology. Linköping University, Faculty of Educational Sciences. (Visuellt lärande och kommunikation)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4694-5611
2020 (English)In: CBE - Life Sciences Education, ISSN 1931-7913, E-ISSN 1931-7913, Vol. 19, no 1Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Evolutionary theory explains a wide range of biological phenomena. Proper understanding of evolutionary mechanisms such as natural selection is therefore an essential goal for biology education. Unfortunately, natural selection has time and again proven difficult to teach and learn, and students’ resulting understanding is often characterized by misconceptions. Previous research has often focused on the importance of certain key concepts such as variation, differential survival, and change in population. However, so-called threshold concepts (randomness, probability, spatial scale, and temporal scales) have also been suggested to be important for understanding of natural selection, but there is currently limited knowledge about how students use these concepts. We sought to address this lack of knowledge by collecting responses to three different natural selection items from 247 university students from Sweden and Germany. Content analysis (deductive and inductive coding) and subsequent statistical analysis of their responses showed that they overall use some spatial scale indicators, such as individuals and populations, but less often randomness or probability in their explanations. However, frequencies of use of threshold concepts were affected by the item context (e.g., the biological taxa and trait gain or loss). The results suggest that the impact of threshold concepts, especially randomness and probability, on natural selection understanding should be further explored.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bethesda: The American Society for Cell Biology , 2020. Vol. 19, no 1
Keywords [en]
science education, evolution, natural selection, conceptual understanding, threshold concepts, undergraduate, item features
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Didactics
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URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-163247DOI: 10.1187/cbe.19-03-0056PubMedID: 31916913Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85077695929OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-163247DiVA, id: diva2:1387805
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Swedish Research Council, 2012:5344, LTAvailable from: 2020-01-22 Created: 2020-01-22 Last updated: 2020-02-18Bibliographically approved

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Göransson, Andreas C.Orraryd, DanielTibell, Lena
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