Science teachers and researchers note that students must correctly understand the role of natural selection in evolution to make sense of biology. The level of understanding of natural selection can be assessed using the Conceptual Inventory of Natural Selection (CINS) which is a 20-item multiple-choice test that incorporates student misconceptions as distractors. In the present study, Item Response Theory (IRT) was used to analyze the occurance of misconceptions on the CINS among 1192 students in an introductory non-majors biology course. The four most difficult topics in the CINS are: (a) how change occurs in a population; (b) origin of variation; (c) heritability of variation; and (d) the origin of species. Students with an average level of understanding of natural selection favored Teleological explanations for why organisms adapt to their environment, namely that organisms change because they need or want to change. These same students favored the Lamarckian explanation for how organisms adapt, namely by passing on acquired traits to offspring. Presence of such misconceptions in students with an average understanding of natural selection highlights the need for biology teachers to make an added effort to create dissatisfaction with teleological and Lamarckian explanations in the minds of their students.
College and Department
Life Sciences; Biology
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Battisti, Bryce T., "Prevalence of Teleological and Lamarckian Misconceptions of Natural Selection Among College Students" (2004). All Theses and Dissertations. 3151.
natural selection, evolution, conceptual inventory of natural selection, conceptions, university, college, students