Mind Changes: Can Out-of-School Learning Contribute to Evolution Literacy?

Friday, February 19, 2010: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Room 16B (San Diego Convention Center)
While public understanding and acceptance of evolution is partially determined by religious beliefs, cognitive factors also play a critical role. Misconceptions about the underlying science of evolution contribute to the public perception that creationism or intelligent design is on an equal footing with evolution and that children should be taught all points of view.Research into the public’s conceptions of evolution reveals persistent resistance to change through educational interventions. Recent research indicated that barriers to the public acceptance of evolution stem from intuitive reasoning processes that limit understanding of biological phenomena. Specifically, the research suggested that if children are introduced to evolutionary principles, particularly the pre-evolutionary concepts of variation, inheritance, selection, time, and adaptation (VISTA), at an early age, they are more likely to improve their grasp of evolutionary theory. Based on concurrent cognitive, developmental, and educational research, a group of researchers are testing the degree to which informal, museum-based, and age-appropriate interventions prepare children to accept the scientific basis of evolution, by targeting their intuitive pre-evolutionary concepts. This session will present the intervention design, results of research on its effectiveness with children and adults, and discuss implications of the project findings for a broader strategy to foster evolution literacy in the public.
Martin Weiss, New York Hall of Science
Eugenie C. Scott, National Center for Science Education
Lynn D. Dierking, Oregon State University
E. Margaret Evans, University of Michigan
Changing Children's Minds About Evolution: A Research Study
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