Gutierrez, Maria Del Refugio (2011-02). Conceptual Knowledge of Evolution and Natural Selection: How Culture Affects Knowledge Aquisition. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • This study examined what effects, if any, cultural factors have on conceptual knowledge of evolutionary theory through natural selection. In particular, the study determines if Latino and non-Latino students differ in their misconceptions of natural selection and, if so, whether or not cultural factors could be the reason why such differences exist. A total of 1179 college students attending eight Hispanic-Serving Institutions in Texas participated in the study. The results revealed that the top two challenging natural selection concepts for students to comprehend were causes of phenotypic variation, i.e., mutations are intentional, and selective survival based on heritable traits. In addition, no statistical significant differences were found between the Latino and non-Latino students and the top four natural selection misconceptions between the groups were similar. Not even religion was found to directly contribute to evolutionary misconceptions; even though, it serves as the core of an individual's beliefs system. However, traditional teaching methods, inadequately trained biology school teachers, lessons poor in content, insufficient teaching time, and lack of age appropriate tasks, as well as, poorly defined evolutionary terms are actually the main causes for evolutionary misconceptions.

publication date

  • December 2009
  • February 2011