Date of Award

12-2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor

McMillan, Patrick D

Committee Member

Ptacek , Margaret B

Committee Member

Speziale , Barbara J

Committee Member

Bridges , William C

Abstract

The theory of evolution is widely accepted as one of the fundamental disciplines of modern science. Evolution provides a foundation for all aspects of biology, and thus it is essential that present and future biologists have a detailed understanding of evolutionary principles. However, since the famous Scopes trial in 1925, the teaching of evolutionary theory in the public school system has been under attack. Though several court cases over the last 85 years have continually supported evolution and discredited creationism (the idea that evolution cannot explain the diversity of life on earth and therefore must have arisen through the influence of a supernatural creator), studies show that many public school science teachers and students do not accept and misunderstand the theory of evolution. This issue is multi-faceted and often depends not only on teacher and student misconceptions and religious views, but also on state science standards, restrictive school boards and school administrators, textbook coverage of evolution, and religious pressure from parents and community members.
In light of this, a number of articles, websites, and publications have arisen in the last thirty years to support the teaching of evolution in public schools and provide supplementary tools that are aimed at helping both teachers and students better understanding how living organisms have evolved. Among these tools are several videos that focus on different aspects of evolutionary biology, with an emphasis on understanding evolutionary mechanisms and innovations. Few videos, however, are targeted at a specific audience, and few still are presented from the point-of-view of a college student.
In the present study, I formed a one-hour documentary that specifically analyzed several principles of evolution that can be seen in South Carolina. This video is hosted by me, and is focused on asking pertinent questions about evolutionary theory and seeking out answers from experts in different fields of biology. The video encompasses statewide science academic standards for South Carolina and is meant to be a supplementary multimedia tool that public school biology teachers can use when teaching evolution.
To test the effectiveness of this video, we formed a 35-question survey to use for analysis. We conducted a pre/post comparison among student survey scores for approximately 140 students in five public high schools throughout South Carolina. We found that while students' acceptance of evolution did not change, their understanding of the nature of science decreased. However, their understanding of evolution increased from pre- to post-treatment. Additionally, a teacher questionnaire revealed that teachers are interested in using this treatment video when teaching their biology classes. The success of this multimedia tool could contribute to increasing student understanding of evolutionary theory and pave the way for further educational multimedia tools that support state science standards.

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