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

Chapter

Abstract

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.

References

  1. Alters, B. J., & Nelson, C. E. (2002). Perspective: Teaching evolution in higher education. Evolution, 56(10), 1891–1901.Google Scholar
  2. Ariew, A. (2003). Ernst Mayr’s ‘ultimate/proximate’ distinction reconsidered and reconstructed. Biology and Philosophy, 18(4), 553–565.Google Scholar
  3. Arthur, W. (2004). Biased embryos and evolution. Cambridge (United Kingdom): Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Banet, E., & Ayuso, G. E. (2003). Teaching of biological inheritance and evolution of living beings in secondary school. International Journal of Science Education, 25(3), 373–407.Google Scholar
  5. Battisti, B. T., Hanegan, N., Sudweeks, R., & Cates R. (2010). Using item response theory to conduct a distracter analysis on conceptual inventory of natural selection. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 8, 845–868.Google Scholar
  6. Beatty, J. (1994). The proximate/ultimate distinction in the multiple careers of Ernst Mayr. Biology and Philosophy, 9(3), 333–356.Google Scholar
  7. Beggrow, E. P., & Nehm, R. H. (2012). Students’ mental models of evolutionary causation: Natural selection and genetic drift. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 5(3), 429–444.Google Scholar
  8. Berland, L. K., & McNeill, K. L. (2012). For whom is argument and explanation a necessary distinction? A response to Osborne and Patterson. Science Education, 96(5), 808–813.Google Scholar
  9. Berti, A. E., Toneatti, L., & Rosati, V. (2010). Children’s conceptions about the origin of species: A study of Italian children’s conceptions with and without instruction. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19(4), 506–538.Google Scholar
  10. Bishop, B. A., & Anderson, C. W. (1990). Student conceptions of natural selection and its role in evolution. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 27(5), 415–427.Google Scholar
  11. Bizzo, N., & El-Hani, C. N. (2009). Darwin and Mendel: Evolution and genetics. Journal of Biological Education, 43(3), 108–114.Google Scholar
  12. Bowler, P. J. (2003). Evolution: The history of an idea. (3rd edn.). Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  13. Bowler, P. J. (2005). Revisiting the eclipse of Darwinism. Journal of the History of Biology, 38, 19–32.Google Scholar
  14. Bowler, P. J. (1983). The eclipse of Darwinism: Anti-Darwinian evolution theories in the decades around 1900. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Brandon, R. N. (1990). Adaptation and Environment. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Brigandt I. (2013a) Explanation in biology: reduction, pluralism, and explanatory aims. Science & Education, 22(1), 69–91.Google Scholar
  17. Brigandt, I. (2013b). Intelligent design and the nature of science: philosophical and pedagogical points. In K. Kampourakis (Ed), The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators.. Dordrecht: Springer, 205–238.Google Scholar
  18. Brumby, M. (1979). Problems in learning the concept of natural selection. Journal of Biological Education, 13(2), 119–122.Google Scholar
  19. Burkhardt, R. W. (1995). The spirit of system: Lamarck and evolutionary biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Cleland, C. E. (2002). Methodological and epistemic differences between historical science and experimental science. Philosophy of Science, 69(3), 447–451.Google Scholar
  21. Cleland, C. E. (2011). Prediction and explanation in historical natural science. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 62(3), 551–582.Google Scholar
  22. Clough, E. E., & Wood-Robinson, C. (1985). Children’s understanding of inheritance. Journal of Biological Education, 19(4), 304–310.Google Scholar
  23. Corsi, P. (2005). Before Darwin: Transformist concepts in European natural history. Journal of the History of Biology, 38, 67–83.Google Scholar
  24. Corsi, P. (2001). Lamarck: Gene’se et enjeux du transformisme, 1770–1830. Paris: Éditions du CNRS.Google Scholar
  25. Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  26. Deadman, J., & Kelly, P. P. (1978). What do secondary school boys understand about evolution and heredity before they are taught the topics? Journal of Biological Education, 12(1), 7–15.Google Scholar
  27. Demastes, S. S., Good, R. G. & Peebles, P. (1996). Patterns of conceptual change in evolution. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 33(4), 407–431.Google Scholar
  28. Depew D. (2013) Conceptual change and the rhetoric of evolutionary theory: ‘Force talk’ as a case study and challenge for science pedagogy. In K. Kampourakis (Ed), The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  29. Endersby, J. (2009). Darwin on generation, pangenesis and sexual selection. In J. Hodge & G. Radick (Eds.), Cambridge companion to Darwin (2nd edn.) (pp. 73–95). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Engels, E. M., & Glick, T. F. (2008). The reception of Charles Darwin in Europe (Vol. 2). London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  31. Evans, E. M. (2008). Conceptual change and evolutionary biology: A developmental analysis. In S. Vosniadou (Ed.), International handbook of research on conceptual change (pp. 263–294). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Evans, E. M., Spiegel, A., Gram, W., Frazier, B. F., Tare, M., Thompson, S. & Diamond, J. (2010). A conceptual guide to natural history museum visitors’ understanding of evolution. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47, 326–353.Google Scholar
  33. Forber, P. (2005). On the explanatory roles of natural selection. Biology and Philosophy, 20(2), 329–342.Google Scholar
  34. Forber, P. (2010). Confirmation and explaining how possible. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 41, 32–40.Google Scholar
  35. Forber, P. (2012). Modeling scientific evidence: The challenge of specifying likelihoods. EPSA Philosophy of Science: Amsterdam 2009, 1, 55–65.Google Scholar
  36. Forber, P., & Griffith, E. (2011). Historical reconstruction: Gaining epistemic access to the deep past. Philosophy & Theory in Biology, 3, e203.Google Scholar
  37. Friedman, M. (1974). Explanation and scientific understanding. The Journal of Philosophy, 71(1), 5–19.Google Scholar
  38. Gauld, C. (1991). History of science, individual development and science teaching. Research in Science Education, 21, 133–140.Google Scholar
  39. Geraedts, C. L., & Boersma, K. T. (2006). Reinventing natural selection. International Journal of Science Education, 28(8), 843–870.Google Scholar
  40. Godfrey-Smith, P. (2003). Theory and reality: An introduction to the philosophy of science. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  41. González Galli, L. M., & Meinardi, E. N. (2011). The role of teleological thinking in learning the Darwinian model of evolution. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 4,145–152.Google Scholar
  42. Gotwals, A. W., & Songer, N. B. (2010). Reasoning up and down a food chain: Using an assessment framework to investigate students’ middle knowledge. Science Education, 94(2), 259–281.Google Scholar
  43. Gould, S. J. (2002). The structure of evolutionary theory. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Gould, S. J. & Lewontin, R. C. (1979). The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: A critique of the adaptationist programme. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B. Biological Sciences, 205(1161), 581–598.Google Scholar
  45. Gregory, T. R. (2008). Evolution as fact, theory, and path. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 1, 46–52.Google Scholar
  46. Gregory T. R. (2009). Understanding natural selection: Essential concepts and common misconceptions. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 2, 156–175.Google Scholar
  47. Greiffenhagen, C., & Sherman, W. (2008). Kuhn and conceptual change: On the analogy between conceptual changes in science and children. Science & Education, 17, 1–26.Google Scholar
  48. Hempel, C. & Oppenheim, P. (1948). Studies in the logic of explanation. Philosophy of Science, 15, 135–175.Google Scholar
  49. Hodge, J., & Radick, G. (2009). Cambridge companion to Darwin (2nd edn.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Jensen, M. S., & Finley, F. N. (1996). Changes in students’ understanding of evolution resulting from different curricular and instructional strategies. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 33(8), 879–900.Google Scholar
  51. Jensen, M. S., & Finley, F. N. (1997). Teaching evolution using a historically rich curriculum and paired problem solving instructional strategy. The American Biology Teacher, 59(4), 208–212.Google Scholar
  52. Jiménez-Aleixandre, M. P. (1992). Thinking about theories or thinking with theories: A classroom study with natural selection. International Journal of Science Education, 14(1), 51–61.Google Scholar
  53. Kampourakis, K. (2006). The finches beaks: Introducing evolutionary concepts. Science Scope, 29(6), 14–17.Google Scholar
  54. Kampourakis, K. (2013a) Mendel and the path to Genetics: Portraying science as a social process. Science & Education, 22(2), 293–324.Google Scholar
  55. Kampourakis, K. (2013b) Teaching about adaptation: why evolutionary history matters. Science & Education, 22(2), 173–188.Google Scholar
  56. Kampourakis K. (Ed) (2013c), The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  57. Kampourakis, K., & Zogza, V. (2007). Students’ preconceptions about evolution: How accurate is the characterization as “Lamarckian” when considering the history of evolutionary thought? Science & Education, 16(3–5), 393–422.Google Scholar
  58. Kampourakis, K., & Zogza, V. (2008). Students’ intuitive explanations of the causes of homologies and adaptations. Science & Education, 17(1), 27–47.Google Scholar
  59. Kampourakis, K., & Zogza, V. (2009). Preliminary evolutionary explanations: A basic framework for conceptual change and explanatory coherence in evolution. Science & Education, 18(10), 1313–1340.Google Scholar
  60. Kitcher, P. (1981). Explanatory unification. Philosophy of Science, 48(4), 507–531.Google Scholar
  61. Kitcher, P. (1989). Explanatory unification and the causal structure of the world. In P. Kitcher & W. C. Salmon (Eds.), Minnesota studies in the philosophy of science (vol. 13): Scientific explanation (pp. 410–505), Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  62. Kuhn, T. S. (1996) [1962]. The structure of scientific revolutions. (3rd edn.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  63. Laland, K. N., Sterelny, K., Odling-Smee, J., Hoppitt, W., & Uller, T. (2011). Cause and effect in biology revisited: Is Mayr’s proximate-ultimate dichotomy still useful? Science, 334, 1512–1516.Google Scholar
  64. Lennox J.G. and Kampourakis K. (2013) Biological teleology: the need for history. In K. Kampourakis (Ed), The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  65. Levine, A. T. (2000). Which way is up? Thomas S. Kuhn’s analogy to conceptual development in Childhood. Science & Education, 9, 107–122.Google Scholar
  66. Lewis, D. (1986). Causation. In D. Lewis (Ed.), Philosophical papers, vol. II (pp. 159–213), Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Lewontin, R. C. (1969). The bases of conflict in biological explanation. Journal of the History of Biology, 2(1), 35–45.Google Scholar
  68. Lombrozo, T., & Carey, S. (2006). Functional explanation and the function of explanation. Cognition, 99, 167–204.Google Scholar
  69. Love, A. C. (2013). Interdisciplinary lessons for the teaching of biology from the practice of evo-devo. Science & Education, 22(2), 255–278.Google Scholar
  70. Mayr, E. (1961). Cause and effect in biology. Science, 134, 1501–1506.Google Scholar
  71. Mayr, E. (1982). The growth of biological thought: Diversity, evolution and inheritance. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  72. Mayr, E. (2002). What evolution is. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.Google Scholar
  73. McNeill, K. L., & Krajcik, J. (2008). Scientific explanations: Characterizing and evaluating the effects of teachers’ instructional practices on student learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45(1), 53–78.Google Scholar
  74. Minelli, A. (2009). Forms of becoming: The evolutionary biology of development. Princeton, Oxford: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Mitchell, G., & Skinner, J. D. (2003). On the origin, evolution and phylogeny of giraffes Giraffa camelopardalis. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa. 58(1), 51–73.Google Scholar
  76. National Research Council (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  77. Nehm, R. H., & Ha, M. (2011). Item feature effects in evolution assessment. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(3), 237–256.Google Scholar
  78. Nehm, R. H., & Reilly, L. (2007). Biology majors’ knowledge and misconceptions of natural selection. BioScience, 57(3), 263–272.Google Scholar
  79. Nehm, R. H., Beggrow, E. P., Opfer, J. E., & Ha, M. (2012). Reasoning about natural selection: Diagnosing contextual competency using the ACORNS Instrument. The American Biology Teacher, 74(2), 92–98.Google Scholar
  80. Nehm, R. H., Kim, S. Y., & Sheppard, K. (2009). Academic preparation in biology and advocacy for teaching evolution: Biology versus non biology teachers. Science Education, 93, 1122–1146.Google Scholar
  81. Okasha, S. (2002). Philosophy of science: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  82. Opfer, J. E., Nehm, R. H., & Ha, M. (2012). Cognitive foundations for science assessment design: Knowing what students know about evolution. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(6), 744–777.Google Scholar
  83. Passmore, C. & Stewart, J. (2002). A modeling approach to teaching evolutionary biology in high schools. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(3), 185–204.Google Scholar
  84. Passmore, C., Stewart, J., & Zoellner, B. (2005). Providing high school students with opportunities to reason like evolutionary biologists. The American Biology Teacher, 67(4), 214–221.Google Scholar
  85. Pazza, R., Penteado, P. R., & Kavalco, K. F. (2010). Misconceptions about evolution in Brazilian freshmen students. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 3(1), 107–113.Google Scholar
  86. Posner, G. J., Strike, K. A., Hewson, P. W., & Gertzog, W. A. (1982). Accommodation of a scientific conception: toward a theory of conceptual change. Science Education, 66, 211–227.Google Scholar
  87. Prinou, L., Halkia, L., & Skordoulis, C. (2011). The inability of primary school to introduce children to the theory of biological evolution. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 4(2), 275–285.Google Scholar
  88. Reydon, T. A. C. (2012). How-possibly explanations as genuine explanations and helpful heuristics: A comment on Forber. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 43, 302–310.Google Scholar
  89. Rosenberg, A. (2005). Philosophy of science: A contemporary introduction. (2nd edn.) London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  90. Rudolph, J. L., & Stewart, J. (1998). Evolution and the nature of science: on the historical discord and its implications for education. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 35(10), 1069–1089.Google Scholar
  91. Salmon, W. C. (1984). Scientific explanation and the causal structure of the world. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  92. Salmon, W. C. (1990). Four decades of scientific explanation. In P. Kitcher & W. C. Salmon (Eds.), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science Vol. 13: Scientific Explanation (pp. 3–219), Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  93. Samarapungavan, A., & Wiers, R. W. (1997). Children’s thoughts on the origin of species: A study of explanatory coherence. Cognitive Science, 21(2), 147–177.Google Scholar
  94. Sandoval, W. A., & Millwood, K. A. (2005). The quality of students’ use of evidence in written scientific explanations. Cognition and Instruction, 23(1), 23–55.Google Scholar
  95. Scriven, M. (1959). Explanation and prediction in evolutionary theory. Science, 130, 477–482.Google Scholar
  96. Scriven, M. (1969). Explanation in the biological sciences. Journal of the History of Biology, 2(1), 187–198.Google Scholar
  97. Settlage Jr, J. (1994). Conceptions of natural selection: a snapshot of the sense‐making process. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31(5), 449–457.Google Scholar
  98. Smith, M. U. (2010). Current status of research in teaching and learning evolution: II. Pedagogical issues. Science & Education, 19(6–8), 539–571.Google Scholar
  99. Strevens, M. (2009). Depth: An account of scientific explanation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  100. Tavares M. L., Jimenez-Aleixandre, M. P., & Mortimer E. F. (2010). Articulation of conceptual knowledge and argumentation practices by high school students in evolution problems. Science & Education, 19(6–8), 573–598.Google Scholar
  101. Thagard, P. (1992). Conceptual revolutions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  102. van Dijk E. M., & Reydon, T. A. C. (2010). A conceptual analysis of evolutionary theory for teacher education. Science & Education, 19(6–8), 655–677.Google Scholar
  103. van Dijk E. M. (2009). Teachers’ views on understanding evolutionary theory: A PCK-study in the framework of the ERTE-model. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 259–267.Google Scholar
  104. Vosniadou S. (2012) Reframing the classical approach to conceptual change: Preconceptions, misconceptions and synthetic models. In B.J. Fraser, K. Tobin, & C. J. McRobbie (Eds.). Second international handbook of science education (pp. 119–130). Dordrehct: Springer.Google Scholar
  105. Waters, C. K. (2009). The arguments in The Origin of Species. In J. Hodge & G. Radick (Eds.). Cambridge companion to Darwin (2nd edn.) (pp. 120–143). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  106. Winther, R. (2000). Darwin on variation and heredity. Journal of the History of Biology, 33, 425–455.Google Scholar
  107. Woodward, J. (2003). Making things happen: A theory of causal explanation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  108. Zabel, J., & Gropengiesser, H. (2011). Learning progress in evolution theory: Climbing a ladder or roaming a landscape? Journal of Biological Education, 45(3), 143–149.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© 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

Personalised recommendations