An examination of the effect of theistic beliefs on student learning while studying evolutionary theory

The purpose of this study detennines the extent to which theistic beliefs may affect student learning while students participate in a unit that focuses on evolutionary theory. Thirty students from an International Baccalaureate/ Advanced Placement Biology course participated in pre-unit and post-unit surveys to understand students' background knowledge and preconceptions about creationism and evolution. Nine of the 30 students also participated in small group discussions to share their perceptions on their learning experience and their learning process. Qualitative analysis suggested three possible obstacles to student learning of evolution including a lack of relevant personal schema to build upon, a lack of understanding about the nature of science and a decision by students to ignore evidence that supports evolution because their religious beliefs are contradicted. Quantitative evidence supports that exam scores may be affected by student beliefs about evolution. This research suggests that it may be important for teachers to revise biology course curriculum to use evolution as the unifying theme in order to assist students in their understanding of evolution.