School children reject evolution due to poor science aptitude
When it comes to emotive topics like the theory of evolution, climate change and vaccination, some adults strongly reject the scientific consensus governing these topics due to a conflict with their belief systems.
As seen in previous studies in the USA, many of these adults are highly educated but it is unclear if this same conflict between belief systems and evidence exists in school children and if it affects their learning?
Researchers from the Milner Centre of Evolution in the UK studied a cohort of 1200 secondary school children students aged 14-16 years from 70 classes from schools ( both private and public schools ) across south and south-west UK.
Students who did not accept evolution tended to be in foundation classes for science indicating that their understanding for science was weak and thus their understanding of evolution is weak too.
They assessed the student’s acceptance and understanding of evolution. Additionally, to address their aptitude for science the scientists assessed their understanding of genetics including reports from their teacher about their science aptitude.
The researchers found that students with low initial evolution acceptance scores also had lower increases in their understanding of evolution. The non-acceptor students also had lower prior understanding of both evolution and genetics and responded poorly to the teaching of evolution and genetics indicating that they were struggling with science as a subject rather than any psychological conflict and therefore found it difficult to accept evolution.
Researchers also found that students who did not accept evolution tended to be in foundation classes for science indicating that their understanding of science was weak and thus their understanding of evolution was weak too.
The researchers found no evidence that rejecters of evolution had a higher scientific aptitude or that psychological conflict played a role in their response to scientific teaching.
It is still unclear why children show contrasting results to other studies on adults. Perhaps, children have no psychological conflict as their belief systems are not fully formed or that they accept both science and religious concepts as compatible although there was no evidence of this in the studies.
The researchers believe that the current method of teaching science was not optimal for lower aptitude children and more research is needed to find the best methods of teaching science to these students – perhaps by concentrating more on their learning styles rather than their ability to learn science.
Source: Nature Ecology & Evolution
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