Current Status of Research in Teaching and Learning Evolution: I. Philosophical/Epistemological Issues
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Scholarship that addresses teaching and learning about evolution has rapidly increased in recent years. This review of that scholarship first addresses the philosophical/epistemological issues that impinge on teaching and learning about evolution, including the proper philosophical goals of evolution instruction; the correlational and possibly causal relationships among knowing, understanding, accepting, and believing; and the factors that affect student understanding, acceptance, and/or belief. Second, I summarize the specific epistemological issues involved, including empiricism, naturalism, philosophical vs methodological materialism, science vs religion as non-overlapping magisteria, and science as a way of knowing. Third, the paper critically reviews the strengths and weaknesses of the research tools available to measure the nature of science, epistemological beliefs, and especially the acceptance of evolution. Based on these findings, further research in these areas, especially study of the factors that cause lack of explanatory coherence as well as replications of studies that promise to explain current confusing findings about the interrelationships among student understanding, acceptance, and belief in evolution, are called for. In addition, this review calls for more longitudinal studies to delineate causal connections as well as improved measurement tools.