Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Influence of High School Biology

UPI has a story indicating that how evolution is taught in high school biology has a large impact on how a student views it thereafter. As the story notes:
Professors Randy Moore and Sehoya Cotner surveyed 1,000 university students taking introductory biology classes. They wanted to determine how biology majors view evolution compared with non-majors.

The scientists said their results showed the two groups' views were similar and revealed high school biology teachers influence whether college students accept evolution or question it based on creationism.

The researchers said students whose high school biology class included creationism (with or without evolution) were more likely to accept creationist views as entering college students. Similarly, students exposed to evolutionism, but not creationism, were more likely to accept evolution in college.
All the more reason to yank creationism out of the science classroom.


  1. Are there any details given on their procedures? The sample of students who got creationism in their classroom undoubtedly included homeschoolers and attendees of conservative Christian schools. (In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the bulk of the sample.)

    There's a lot more to such students' skepticism of evolution than a single biology class.

  2. From the paper:

    "Study population. During 2007 and 2008, we surveyed 1008 students enrolled in introductory biology courses for majors and nonmajors at the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota. The surveys were conducted during or before the first day of classes. Most of the students in this study attended high school in the upper Midwest, and all of the students in this study had taken a biology course in a public high school. The two groups of students in the study included biology majors and nonmajors; students indicated whether they had declared biology to be their major. Biology
    majors (N = 290) had an average high-school graduation percentile of 93.8 percent (± 5.2 percent) and an average ACT composite score of 27.0 (± 3.1). Nonmajors (N = 718) had an average high-school graduation percentile of 84.8 percent (± 12.5 percent) and an average ACT composite score of 25.9 (± 4.0). The survey instrument. Our survey began with a question asking students to tell us whether their high-school biology course included (a) evolution but not creationism, (b) creationism but not evolution, (c) both evolution and creationism, or (d) neither evolution nor creationism (table 1). We then asked students to respond to the 20 statements in the Measure of Acceptance of the Theory of Evolution (MATE)
    instrument developed and validated by Rutledge and Sadler (2007). Students could answer “strongly agree,” “agree,” “unsure,” “disagree,” or “strongly disagree,” or decline to answer at all. Our survey concluded with an optional opportunity for students to comment about the survey. The study was voluntary, anonymous, and approved by the university’s institutional review board. Students’ responses were tabulated electronically and had no effect on students’ grades. For our statistical analysis, students’ numerical responses
    to the MATE items were assigned the following values: strongly agree = 1, agree = 2, unsure = 3, disagree = 4, and strongly disagree = 5. Means were tested for significant differences through a one-way analysis of variance, and differences were considered significant at p < 0.05."

    Moore, R. and Cotner, S. (2009) The Creationist Down the Hall: Does It Matter When Teachers Teach Creationism? Bioscience59(5): 429-430