History and Philosophy of Science and the Teaching of Evolution: Students’ Conceptions and Explanations

  • Kostas Kampourakis
  • Ross H. Nehm


A large body of work in science education indicates that evolution is one of the least understood and accepted scientific theories. Although scholarship from the history and philosophy of science (HPS) has shed light on many conceptual and pedagogical issues in evolution education, HPS-informed studies of evolution education are also characterized by conceptual weaknesses. In this chapter, we critically review such studies and find that some work lacks historically accurate characterizations of student ideas (preconceptions and misconceptions). In addition, although several studies in the science education literature have drawn parallels between students’ conceptual change patterns and those from the history of science (HOS), we identify several issues that complicate the characterization of student ideas as “Lamarckian” or “Darwinian.” Finally, a review of the topic of explanation illustrates how the plurality of approaches employed in evolutionary biology is not reflected in evolution education scholarship or practice. This finding is particularly concerning given the recent shift in emphasis in science education standards to teaching content through practice-based tasks (e.g., explanation and argumentation). Overall, this chapter demonstrates that while HPS is of central importance to a deep understanding of evolution education, too often its contributions are poorly realized.


Conceptual Change Evolution Education Evolutionary Explanation Science Education Research Antecedent Condition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the anonymous reviewers for thoughtful ideas about how to improve the manuscript, Liz P. Beggrow for helpful suggestions, and Minsu Ha for help with references.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biology Section and IUFEUniversity of GenevaGeneva 4Switzerland
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and EvolutionStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA

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