Date of Award

1999

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Ronald G. Good

Abstract

Adequate understanding of the nature of science is a major goal of science education. Understanding of the evolutionary nature of biological knowledge is a means of reinforcing biology students' understanding of the nature of science. It provides students with the philosophical basis, explanatory ideals, and subject matter-specific views of what counts as a scientifically-acceptable biological explanation. This study examined 121 college introductory biology and advanced zoology students for their conceptions related to the nature of biological knowledge. A 60-item Likert-scale questionnaire called the Nature of Biological Knowledge Scale and student interviews were used as complementary research instruments. Firstly, the study showed that 80--100% of college biology students have an adequate understanding of scientific methods, and that a similar percentage of students had learned the theory of evolution by natural selection in their biology courses. Secondly, the study showed that at least 60--80% of the students do not understand the importance of evolution in biological knowledge. Yet the study revealed that a statistically significant positive correlation exist among students' understanding of natural selection, divergent, and convergent evolutionary models. Thirdly, the study showed that about 20--58% of college students hold prescientific conceptions which, in part, are responsible for students' lack of understanding of the nature of biological knowledge. A statistically significant negative correlation was found among students' prescientific conceptions about basis of biological knowledge and nature of change in biological processes, and their understanding of natural selection and evolutionary models. However, the study showed that students' characteristics such as gender, age, major, or years in college have no statistically significant influence on students' conceptions related to the nature of biological knowledge. Only students' depth of biological knowledge or course was found to have a statistically significant influence on students' conceptions related to scientific methods, the scope and limits of biological knowledge, the importance of evolution in biology, and students' understanding of homologous and analogous structural features as products of divergent and convergent evolutionary processes. Findings of this study have implications for college biology teaching, student learning, and conceptual change among college biology students.

ISBN

9780599262195

Pages

266

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