Examining the Interaction of Acceptance and Understanding: How Does the Relationship Change with a Focus on Macroevolution?

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The goal of this research was to illuminate the relationship between students’ acceptance and understanding of macroevolution. Our research questions were: (1) Is there a relationship between knowledge of macroevolution and acceptance of the theory of evolution?; (2) Is there a relationship between the amount of college level biology course work and acceptance of evolutionary theory and knowledge of macroevolution?; and (3) Can college student acceptance of the theory of evolution and knowledge of macroevolution change over the course of a semester? The research participants included 667 students from a first-semester biology course and 74 students from the evolutionary biology course. Data were collected using both the MATE (a measure of the acceptance of evolutionary theory) and the MUM (a measure of understanding of macroevolution). Pre-instruction data were obtained for the introductory biology course, and pre- and post-data were obtained for the evolutionary biology course. Analysis revealed acceptance of evolution (as measured by the MATE) was correlated to understanding of macroevolution, and the number of biology courses was significantly correlated to acceptance and knowledge of macroevolution. Finally, there was a statistically significant change in students’ understanding of macroevolution and acceptance of evolution after the one-semester evolutionary biology course. Significance of these findings is discussed.