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Examining the efficacy of using a conceptual change approach for fostering high school students’ understanding of biological evolution Henry, Andrew

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the efficacy of a conceptual change teaching approach to an Evolutionary Biology Unit. The study was conducted in a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia with a class of Grade 11 Biology students. The conceptual change teaching strategy was patterned after the model of Posner, Strike, Hewson, & Gertzog (1982). Student conceptions were identified through the use of two survey instruments given at the beginning and the end of the unit. The findings suggest that students enter the course with a diverse but finite range of conceptions regarding Evolutionary Biology. The findings also suggest that overall the conceptual change unit promoted students' usage of scientific conceptions. One approach that appeared successful was to make the different concepts, scientific versus alternative, explicit to students. Another approach was differentiating between the scientific and everyday meaning of terms. This study also found that alternative conceptions concerning the nature of science are very resistant to change and that teleological thinking is very compelling for students. Finally, it was found that new alternative conceptions emerge after the course which appears to be a commingling of both scientific and alternative conception.

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