Learning Exercise

Dealing with evolution misconceptions

This lesson for teachers has them view actual videos of students working in Mr. Bingman's and Mrs. Havlik's classes. The videos show many examples of students' misconceptions about evolution and two teachers' approaches to dealing with them. With notes taken throughout an online session, they then summarize the misconceptions and evaluate Mr. Bingman's and Ms. Havlik's strategies. They analyze, organize, generalize, and explain their answer in an essay that is submitted to online blind peer review.
Course: Teaching Evolution: Online COurse for Teachers

This is a great site where users will examine major evolutionary concepts, explore teaching methodologies, and address... see more


Discussion Questions over Online Session 6

  1. Think about the students you have taught over the years. What are their common misconceptions about evolution? For each misconception, identify what is the "correct" explanation. Include misconceptions students in Mr. Bingman's and Ms Havlik's classes raise.
  2. What are the most promising strategies for uncovering students' prior knowledge and changing student misconceptions? What is essential about Ms. Havlik's sequence of activities and questions. Explain important ideas about lesson design, instructional strategies, and the physical environment.
  3. Give examples of QUESTIONS used to assist student thinking, challenge student explanations, and suggest further study.
  4. Where would you put Mr. Bingman's, Ms. Havlik's, and Ms. Chen's lessons on the continuum for each of the five essential features at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/educators/course/session7/engage_b.html? Explain why. What specific elements of the lessons led you to make these placements?
  5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using simulations to teach evolution? What might you include in a debriefing for these activities?

 When you are ready to write your essay, you may find the Video Segments and External Web Links listed under session 6 resources especially helpful.

Additional Source Materials

  • How People Learn National Research Council. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000
  • JRST 39 (10): 952-978, 2002 posted as a Course Document on Blackboard.



Guiding Questions

  1. What evidence of student learning/understanding is there in student work in Mr. Bingman's class? Why do you think that?
  2. What techniques work to reveal how students think about their learning?
  3. What misconceptions have you identified? What is the "correct" explanation?
  4. How can one change students' understandings about misconceptions?
  5. What did you see in students' work that was interesting and surprising?

Technical Notes

Students may need help with html flags to format paragraphs for Calibrated Peer Review.


Understand the theory of evolution by natural selection.


evolution natural selection heredity misconceptions pedagogy science education inquiry

Type of Task

Learning Objectives

Examine how student misconceptions about evolution can be raised and addressed; Identify examples of misconceptions students have about evolution; Understand how assessment strategies are integrated into inquiry-based science lessons.