The Effect of Engaging Prior Learning on Student Attitudes toward Creationism and Evolution

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit

Biological Sciences

Publication Date



American adults and K–12 students frequently report nonrationalist views about creationism and evolution. Efforts to force educators to include material on “intelligent design” theory are causing widespread concern in the science education community. I report here the effects of a modified approach to a majors-oriented college introductory biology course. The course was modified to connect with the experiences, knowledge, and beliefs that most students bring to college, with the intent of engaging prior learning about creationism and evolution and of emphasizing the nature of science. The effects of this approach on student creationist or evolutionist attitudes were compared with the effects of two other sections of the same course that were taught by different instructors during the same academic quarter. The modified approach produced more attitude change than the other approaches. It included some material whose use has been discouraged by science educators, including discussion of creation myths and use of an intelligent design–oriented book as a foil to a mainstream book on evolution in seminar discussions.


This article was originally published in BioScience. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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