ERIC Number: EJ1039216
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Dec
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 35
Snakes and Eels and Dogs! Oh, My! Evaluating High School Students' Tree-Thinking Skills: An Entry Point to Understanding Evolution
Catley, Kefyn M.; Phillips, Brenda C.; Novick, Laura R.
Research in Science Education, v43 n6 p2327-2348 Dec 2013
The biological community is currently undertaking one its greatest scientific endeavours, that of constructing the Tree of Life, a phylogeny intended to be an evidenced-based, predictive road map of evolutionary relationships among Earth's biota. Unfortunately, we know very little about how such diagrams are understood, interpreted, or used as inferential tools by students--collectively referred to as tree thinking. The present study provides the first in-depth look at US high school students' competence at tree thinking and reports how they engage cognitively with tree representations as a precursor to developing curricula that will provide an entry point into macroevolution. Sixty tenth graders completed a 12-question instrument that assessed five basic tree-thinking skills. We present data that show patterns of misunderstandings are largely congruent between tenth graders and undergraduates and identify competences that are pivotal to address during instruction. Two general principles that emerge from this study are: (a) Students need to be taught that cladograms are an authoritative source of evidence that should be weighted more than other superficial or ecological similarities; (b) students need to understand the vital importance and critical difference between most recent common ancestry and common ancestry. Further, we show how the objectives of this study are closely aligned with US and International Standards and argue that scientifically-literate citizens need at least a basic understanding of the science behind the Tree of Life to understand and engage in twenty-first century societal issues such as human health, agriculture, and biotechnology.
Descriptors: Science Instruction, High School Students, Grade 10, Misconceptions, Scientific Concepts, Biology, Evolution, Thinking Skills, Cognitive Processes, Concept Formation
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education; Grade 10
Authoring Institution: N/A