ERIC Number: EJ1029922
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Mar
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
When Relationships Depicted Diagrammatically Conflict with Prior Knowledge: An Investigation of Students' Interpretations of Evolutionary Trees
Novick, Laura R.; Catley, Kefyn M.
Science Education, v98 n2 p269-304 Mar 2014
Science is an important domain for investigating students' responses to information that contradicts their prior knowledge. In previous studies of this topic, this information was communicated verbally. The present research used diagrams, specifically trees (cladograms) depicting evolutionary relationships among taxa. Effects of college students' and 10th graders' prior knowledge on their ability to reason from information depicted in cladograms was evaluated in two ways: (1) By keeping the hierarchical branching structure constant while manipulating whether the taxa-targeted common misconceptions about biological classification or were unfamiliar; and (2) by keeping the targeted misconception constant while manipulating the strength of the evidence countermanding that misconception. Students demonstrated more sophisticated reasoning when (1) the taxa were unfamiliar, so they had to rely on the diagrammatic information presented rather than their incorrect prior knowledge, and (2) stronger evidence contradicting their incorrect prior knowledge was presented. Students' challenges to correctly interpreting evolutionary trees included lower level of schooling and greater strength of the misconception. College, but not high school, students showed some ability to transfer their better reasoning with cladograms depicting relationships among unfamiliar taxa to cladograms depicting taxon relationships that contradicted their everyday conceptions. Implications for improving biology education and overcoming misconceptions are discussed.
Descriptors: Visual Aids, Evolution, Taxonomy, College Students, High School Students, Grade 10, Prior Learning, Classification, Misconceptions, Thinking Skills, Comparative Analysis, Familiarity, Biology, Science Education
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A