Driven by Topics: High School Students’ Interest in Evolutionary Biology

  • Janina Jördens
  • Marcus HammannEmail author


We investigated potential drivers of interest in topic–context and topic–activity combinations, as well as interactions between the different elements of situational interest in evolutionary biology. High school students (n = 982, age 17 years) were asked to rate their interest in two sets of items consisting of topic–context and topic–activity combinations. Rasch modeling, analyses of variance, and descriptive statistics revealed that topics are the dominant dimension and moderate the general level of interest that students express in both topic–context and topic–activity combinations. Qualitative findings from interviews with high school students (n = 6, age 16 years) support this finding. Thus, choice of a particular context, as well as choice of a particular activity, may be less important than previously assumed, since topics are the bottleneck and drive situational interest in topic–context combinations and topic–activity combinations. Implications for evolution education are discussed.


Situational interest Topic Activity Context Evolutionary biology 



This study was conducted in the context of “Design and Evaluation of Teaching Materials for the Evolution of Life,” a project funded by VolkswagenStiftung on the occasion of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. We would like to thank Prof. Dr. Erich Bornberg-Bauer, Dr. Harald Kullmann, Dr. Roman Asshoff, Mayalin Scholz, and the reviewers for their contributions.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zentrum für Didaktik der BiologieWestfälische Wilhelms-Universität MünsterMünsterGermany

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