Communication Across a Conceptual Divide: Effects of Collaboration on Evolutionary Reasoning

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2012


Teaching students the theory of evolution by natural selection has become a fundamental goal of science education. Nevertheless, students often construct an intuitive understanding of evolution that impedes their ability to learn the correct theory when it is taught (Shtulman, 2006; Shtulmn & Calabi, 2012). Our study explored how students who hold an incorrect, intuitive theory communicate with those who hold a correct, scientific theory. Specifically, we evaluated how collaboration influences evolutionary reasoning. College undergraduates (N = 50) were administered a survey designed to assess their evolutionary reasoning. Each participant took the survey twice, once individually and once with a partner. We predicted that collaboration would have one of three effects on dyad performance. It would either (a) help dyads earn a higher score on the assessment than either partner was able to earn individually, (b) lead higher-scoring partners to regress such that the dyad’s score would be as low as that of the lower-scoring partner, or (c) lead lower-scoring partners to improve such that the dyad’s score would be as high as that of the higher-scoring partner. This research will contribute to a growing body of literature on the nature of conceptual change and its relation to knowledge enrichment. Results may also provide insight into how collaboration can be used to reveal and correct robust misconceptions in the science classroom.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.


Andrew Shtulman




National Science Foundation grant to Andrew Shtulman

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