What do upper secondary students learn about evolution from an animation of antibiotic resistance?

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Linköpings universitet/Institutionen för beteendevetenskap och lärandeUtbildningsvetenskap


Biological evolution can be described as a unifying concept in biology. A thorough understanding of evolution is thus important to fully understand different areas of biology. However, learning the concepts of evolution has proven difficult, both to students and teachers. During the last decade, the notion of threshold concepts in learning has emerged. Passing the threshold or grasping the threshold concept is a transformative process, thought to be irreversible and has been described as passing a portal to new areas of understanding. Threshold concepts of importance to understanding evolution has been suggested to be time, spatial scale, complexity, randomness and probability. A hypothesis is therefore that facilitating understanding of those threshold concepts also will lead to a greater understanding of evolutionary mechanisms.

Visualisations in science communication and learning has gained increased interest and animations as a form of visualisations has proven to facilitate learning in some situations. Since many (threshoid) concepts in evolution are untangible, such as deep time, small scale (micro and sub micro scale) animations could be a way to make those concepts more tangible for learners. In order to explore the potential for animations in learning evolution by making threshold concepts more tangible an interactive animation was designed and tested with upper secondary students in the course Biology 1. The subject of the animation was development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

Learning effect was measured as differences in pre and post test scores on a selection of previously used concept questions from the literature, the concept inventory of natural selection (CINS). Open ended questions were also used as well as interview sessions, to gain more insight to the eventual effects of the animation. No statiscally significant improvement in the CINS scores could be observed in total, however improvement on a specific question category (biotic potential) could be observed. The number of misconceptions on evolution seemed unaffected after animation. Indications of conceptual conflicts could also be observed after the animation, indicating a potential for conceptual change with future revisions of the animation. 

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